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Literature / Szamanka od Umarlaków
aka: Shaman Of The Undead

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Ladies and gentlemen, our unwilling heroine.

A medium's life is screwed-up. A medium who doesn't want to be a medium is screwed-up doubly. Medium with no vocation, but with aversion to spirits, is screwed-up in every way possible.

Szamanka od umarlaków, unofficially translated as "Shaman of the Undead" is a series of Urban Fantasy books by Polish author Martyna Raduchowska, so far untranslated to any other languages. Its protagonist is a young woman born in the modern-day southern Poland - specifically, the magical part.

Ida Brzezińska is the Black Sheep of her family - a powerful, influential family of wizards, whose only scion seems to possess no magical talent whatsoever. Tired with her parents' plots to send her to magical university and then marry her off to some Wizard-Council-influential magician to whom she can bear properly magical children, Ida runs away to Wrocław, to study psychology. Things get complicated when it turns out that she does, in fact, have a gift - as a "shaman of the undead", she's able to foresee people's deaths and obliged to lead their souls to the Land Of The Dead. Trained by her tongue-in-cheek old aunt Tekla, Ida foresees her first assignment and sets off to do the job... but the case turns more complicated than it initially seems.

The series currently consists of:

  1. Szamanka od umarlaków
  2. Demon luster
  3. Fałszywy pieśniarz

This series contains examples of:

  • Addiction-Powered: Kwiatuszek's powers run on caffeine and high fat food.
  • Alchemy Is Magic: It is mentioned as one of magical disciplines.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Bad Luck, Ida's personal demon.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Tekla uses 19th century speech patterns, to the point that Ida thinks she's got a grammar problem. Also, it makes her sound rather snotty.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Kwiatuszek's main power is that she's genius analyst, capable of figuring out everything, given sufficient amount of raw data (and "sufficient" isn't much when she's concerned).
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Kwiatuszek is pretty much the Big Good of the story, helping Brittle under the desk and analyzing data for him and Ida.
  • Big Eater: "Brittle" Kruszyński. Ida once or twice complains about him clearing her fridge on every visit.
  • Black Sheep: Ida's parents consider her to be one, mostly because she refuses to participate in Arranged Marriage and she seems to possess no magical gift.
  • Blessed with Suck: So far, it seems like nothing good comes from being a shaman of the undead.
  • Blue-Collar Warlock: Extremely common in this universe.
  • Bond Creature: Variation of this occurs with Ida and Bad Luck, although case of who has who never gets resolved. Played straight with Biter, Ida's dreamcatcher, and zig-zagged with Joanna who's a harpy accompanying Ida everywhere because Ida is supposed to guide her to Land Of The Dead note .
  • Brainwashed: Any Muggle who has seen too much magic is subjected to this, with their memories of the events wiped out.
  • Creator Provincialism: Except from a couple of scenes at the beginning of the first book and one or two in the second, the entire story takes place in Wrocław.
  • Curse Escape Clause: A must for any immortal oath. Too bad Ida didn't know this when she made one...
  • The Dark Arts: Ol' fashioned black magic. It smells of ginger and pepper.
  • Dark World: The world on the other side of the mirrors is a distorted and sometimes-creepy version of our reality.
  • Dead All Along: Tekla. She died two years before the story started.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most notably Tekla, Okhamhaka and Redhead, although other characters have their moments as well.
  • Demonic Possession: What most attempts at summoning a demon end with. It can also happen to bystanders if they are present when the ritual is finished.
  • Demon Slaying: Brittle's job in WON. The departament actually hires a lot of demon slayers in case of necromancer's hunts or exorcisms go awry.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Ida foresees certain peoples' death, as well as important future events. Tekla states it's a Required Secondary Power so that she can be on time to lead the ghost to the Land of the Dead.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: Ida, again, this time about The Tempter.
  • Fantastic Angst: Ida angsts over her parents' plans for her to study in a magical university and marry an influential wizard, despite her lack of magical talent.
  • Fiery Redhead: Redhead, with her Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Fights Like a Normal: Ida, since her talent doesn't apply to the living.
  • Fun with Acronyms: WON note  means "be gone" in Polishnote . Actually sort of fitting.
  • Geas: Shaman of the undead must lead all the souls she dreamed of to the Land Of The Dead - otherwise she loses part of her own soul and somebody else dies.
  • Geometric Magic: Circles are important, especially in necromancy and demon-summoning.
  • Haunted House: Most notably Tekla's house and the apartment house Ida moved in. Both are benign versions. Karev's house, though, is absolutely creepy, but it's the backyard that's haunted. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Hell: Apparently, some worlds on the other side of the mirrors are hells ruled by powerful demons, most notably Tempter's hell. Only demons and people who were possessed in life go there, the latter only if their souls don't explode from Black Magic's taint.
  • Heroic RRoD: Ida suffers from it through the first half of Demon luster.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bad Luck in the end of Demon luster. The epilogue implies he survived and is still bonded with Ida, though.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Demons like eating people, in case you wondered why it's so illegal to summon them.
  • I See Dead People: Ida, to her reluctance, and Tekla. She can also see creepy life-like visions where Black Magic was used.
  • In-Series Nickname: Most agents of WON has those, as Polish tradition requiresnote . Zofia is Redhead, Kruszyński - Brittle ("Kruchy" in Polish), Lena Wolf is Wolfie and so on.
  • Intangibility: Ghosts, as well as Biter when he's personifying Ida's dreams.
  • Ironic Nickname: "Brittle" is anything, but that. Meanwhile, his actual surname, Kruszyński, indicates someone small - and he's not that, either.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Ida nicknamed Mikołaj's ghost "One-Eyed Cannibal" for a reason.
  • Job Title: By way of Protagonist Title, the Szamanka od umarlaków.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Memory wiping is this, as so-called "sowers of oblivion" can make someone forget any person completely, provided that a proper personal trinket is given away. Said trinket acts like a storage for wiped out memory, so if the wiped-out person touches it, all the memories come back.
  • Magical Native American: Okhamhaka, the Indian boy-ghost who Tekla calls "probably the most powerful one she's ever met". How he came to be in Wrocław, an ocean and half a continent from America, is left unexplained.
  • Magical Society: WON, Department Of Possessions And Hauntings (Wydział Opętań i Nawiedzeń), the magical police.
  • Magic Mirror: Any mirror is this, a gate to all possible universes, including various hells, future and past. One can come through a mirror and move between them... But it's dangerous because residents of those hells mentioned earlier like human souls very much.
  • Magnetic Medium: Inner Eye appears as a bright light to ghosts to tell them about the presence and location of Ida, so she doesn't have to go searching for them, or at least not too far. Doubles as Weirdness Magnet and Ida'd much rather do without it, thank you very much.
  • Masquerade: And WON doesn't shy from Brainwashing to uphold it.
  • Memory Gambit: A subversion. Karev has his memories partially erased after his wife's and child's death and everybody thinks this is because he killed them and doesn't want memory-readers to prove it. Not really. Child died of sickness and wife committed suicide, so Karev, suffering a massive depression, asked a friend to erase his memories of them. Only it had Gone Horribly Wrong...
  • Memory-Wiping Crew: WON hires "oblivion sewers" and "memory sewers", whose job is respectively deleting and planting false memories, to keep up The Masquerade, although they work as regular psychologists as well.
  • Mirror Monster: Demons and people able to walk in the mirrors tend to come off like this.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: Ida spends most of her life confident that she's this. Her parents don't believe it, hence a variety of tests and traps to force her to reveal her gift. It turns out that she's always been a shaman, only her house's magical wards prevented ghosts from coming to her.
  • No Eye in Magic: In order to see her dreams caught by Biter, Ida must look him in the eyes.
  • Necromancer: WON treats them as necessary evil, as they use black magic, but sometimes the opportunity to question the victim is priceless.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Kruszyński is constantly referred to by his nickname, Brittle.
  • Our Banshees Are Louder: Banshees are people who can predict somebody's death and more often that not, deliver it.
  • Our Demons Are Different: They are entities that live on the other side of the mirror in various hells. Most are ruled by the Tempter. They can possess people, and people "tainted" by black magic and demonic possession may become demons themselves. They crave human flesh and souls, although some are satisfied with pranks.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: They are either souls of dead people who have not left for the Land Of The Dead yet (or were summoned back), or souls that came (or were pushed) out of their still living bodies. They can be destroyed, tainted by black magic or turned into demons, and can shatter if tainted too much.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Seems to drift slowly in this direction, which is reasonable, since some characters are magical policemen.
  • Post-Modern Magik: Photographs can be used to contact the living, as they are perfect imitation of a person. Also, "crucifixes", or firearms for demons.
  • Prophecy Twist: Ida did foresee the sudden death of Mikołaj and when said person broke into her house and tried to kill her, she kept waiting for someone to come in and save the day. It turns out she was his killer.
  • Psychopomp: A shaman of the undead's job is to guide the souls to the Land of the Dead, although not all souls need it. Shamans are so rare that WON has no records of them and had to do a lot of digging before they can believe Ida's claim to be one.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Discussed, but averted. Redhead suspects that Ida may be this for Brittle after the loss of Wolfie, but he disagrees, stating that he will not treat Ida as such.
  • Required Secondary Powers: For Ida, her ability to see any soon-to-be deaths, so that she can get to them and guide them to the Land of the Dead, and her ability to see ghosts, for rather obvious reasons.
  • Screening the Call: Tekla suggests that that's what happened - Brzezińscy's house's magic wards were stopping the ghosts from coming to Ida, making her seem powerless. This is supported by the fact that, while in the hospital at the start of the story, she instantly sees Mikołaj's future ghost. And that she's always seen and chatted with ghosts on funerals.
  • Shout-Out: Multiple:
  • The Call Put Me on Hold: Until she's 21, Ida hadn't displayed any magical talents, which annoyed her parents (both powerful wizards) to no end.
  • The Promise: The immortal oath Ida makes at the end of the Szamanka causes the Demon luster plot.
  • Protagonist Title: By way of calling by by a Job Title.
  • The Shrink: Karev's friend is, beside a psychologist in Muggle world, the "oblivion sower", meaning he can literally erase other people's memories and manipulate them to his wish. Oh, and he turns out to be Big Bad of the books, being person who turned Karev into the Mirror Demon.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Overlaps with Magnetic Medium. Ida is one until she learns to conceal her Inner Eye, which works like ghostly lighthouse, bringing to her souls, demons, curious spirits and, by extension, WON's attention.
  • Where Did We Go Wrong?: Ida's parents have this attitude towards their daughter, who wants a life of her own instead of fulfilling their expectations.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Ida was supposed to be "necessary minimum" to secure her family's political power, be obedient daughter, study magic and marry an important wizard. And she wants nothing to do with magic, instead going to study psychology on a Muggle university. Dear parents riddle their house with magical traps, trying to prove she's only pretending to have no powers. Ida once had to wait a good fifteen minutes dangling upside down before someone came to free her of one trap.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Apparently one of rules in the series' universe.
  • You Can See Me?: Joanna's and apartment's ghosts' reaction.

Alternative Title(s): Shaman Of The Undead