Steeped in mythic archetypes and animist ritual (both real and imagined), THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE is the first half of the epic saga of Jovai, a sensitive and resourceful tribal girl whose ability to commune with the spirit world marks her as the next shaman of her village. However, no woman has ever been a shaman before, and Jovai will soon find herself in the midst of a violent conflict between tradition and progress, both within her little village, and far beyond to a world she never thought imaginable.
THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE is a massive undertaking by author B. Muze to fully flesh out and explore the cultures and practices of a nature-worshipping tribal civilization. As a result, the pace is methodical and beautifully rendered, with meticulous care given to the main character and those she meets along the way. Through the engaging and empathetic perspective of Jovai, the reader is given an intimate understanding of her home, her people, the magic she possesses, and the ways in which she both respects and struggles with the practices and laws that have been necessary for survival.
Jovai’s journey is mystical, thrilling, and at times painful. Her maturation from innocent child to self-sufficient adult is fraught with confrontation: with her tribe’s enemies, foreign powers, spiritual forces beyond comprehension, and even her own loved ones. Throughout though, Jovai maintains a stalwart belief in the goodness of people, the sanctity of life, and the power of forgiveness and compassion.
Where the story feels only slightly lacking is in its tremendous length, which creates pacing problems in the back-half of the novel where Jovai explores her adolescence. Climactic moments of great beauty feel a rushed in this section, and the introduction of a love subplot comes across as underdeveloped. If anything, THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE would benefit from being split into two books, allowing the same attention and thoughtful pacing of Jovai’s childhood to better shape the latter part of the story. However THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE remains an engrossing read sure to delight fantasy and history fans alike, and will continue in DEMON’S QUARRY, a follow-up novel about Jovai’s adulthood.
With THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE, B. Muze has crafted gripping story in an expansive world, which through its sympathetic and steadfast heroine, manages to explore the ever-present beauty and ugliness that exists in both human and divine.
~Marie Anello for Indie Reader