Sometimes it isn’t as easy as choosing right or wrong.
Sixteen-year-old Holly Bennett is a comic book nerd, a con artist, and a shaman. Most days Holly wishes she could trade in her power of spirit communication for something more useful–like fireballs or Wolverine claws. She knows spirits aren’t exactly Casper the Friendly Ghosts. They’re dangerous beings from Lower World who snack on human life, and messing with the magic from their world is an express ticket to big trouble. But when a shaman sticks her mom’s mind between their world and ours, Holly becomes the unexpected breadwinner in the family. She uses her burgeoning shaman powers to set up fake hauntings and “banish” the so-called ghosts from her wealthy classmates’ bedrooms. For a fee, of course.
When actual spirits start manifesting, Holly discovers that other shamans have come to town, summoning life-sucking spirits for their own ends. And the newcomers may just hold the clue Holly’s been looking for–the one that can release her mom’s mind from its Lower World prison. With the help of both a cute web comic artist and her partner-in-con, Holly plots to take them down, throwing her into a whirlwind of speedboat getaways, breaking and entering, and astral projections into the spirit world. And as her mom’s mind slips further away, Holly has to fight to save her, and the rest of the town, before they get sucked into Lower World permanently.
Goodreads Link: Bone Dry (Soul Shames #1)
Author: Cady Vance
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
A fast-paced urban fantasy teen novel with an interesting premise. The shamans and spirit world were defined and added a lot of mystery to the story. Also, I really liked Holly, the main character. She had more depth than I expected from a comic book-loving con artist.
I read the whole book in a blur in about two days. The action doesn’t let up from the moment the book starts, even when she’s with the boy she has a crush on, since he gets pretty involved in the main story. She also has a great friend in Laura, who I wanted to hear more about. There’s got to be more to her story how she ended up being adopted by a normal human despite her shaman powers.
Despite the serious tone and action, there was time for little spots of humor here and there. I liked the comic book references in particular. It made Holly more relatable to know what she did for fun when she wasn’t dealing with such major issues.
With the fast pace, some novels tend to make the romantic relationship develop too quickly, leading to some people labeling them “instalove.” This book avoids that problem because Holly already knew Nate from school and the attraction existed before the story starts. The plot finally brings them closer together to let the sparks fly and the relationship feels pretty natural for two awkward teens. It’s actually really cute the way that Nate volunteers to be her “sidekick” and finds ways to help out even though he has no shaman powers of her own.
Also, I’ve got to give a shout-out to the animal companion. Astral is her adorable kitty and he even helps out at one point. He’s not as involved as a full-blown familiar, but it’s nice to have a pet, at least.
The main plot of the book does get resolved, but it opens up new story possibilities for the sequels. It seems like Holly still has a lot to learn about being a shaman and deal with spirits. I’ll probably pick up the next book in the series to see where it goes after this.
I’d recommend this to anyone who likes teen urban fantasy. It’s a solid example of the genre, with more focus on the magical side of the story than trouble at school or other teen problems.