Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff, the author of the The Enchantment Emporium, is a veteran writer (published since the late 1980’s) has experienced success in the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance (her Blood Books was turned into the TV show Blood Ties) alternate world fantasy and even SF genres over her career.

The Enchantment Emporium finds her clearly back in Urban Fantasy territory. Alysha ‘Allie’ Gale is one of the younger members of the prolific, insular and highly powerful Gale family (none of the girls are ever named Dorothy). The opening of the book finds her jobless and without focus. That is until she receives a letter from her Gran (Catherine Gale) saying that the older lady has died and left her shop (the emporium of the title) in Calgary to Allie. Allie’s multitude of meddling aunties, especially the intimdiating and formidable Auntie Jane, are none too happy that the irresponsible Catherine (Gran isn’t held in high regard by the rest of the clan) has taken action that will give Allie an excuse to leave the bosom of the family, they’re based in rural Ontario. However they do know that they can’t stop Allie from leaving, and they have no intention of just letting her get on with her life without their influence, they’ll be phoning regularly and may even visit from time to time. There’s also nothing to stop them from sending some of the families younger members to Calgary to ‘spy’ on Allie.

Right from the time Allie arrives in Calgary, and looks around the shop, she has suspicions that her Gran is not dead and there’s a mystery to be solved here. Before she can really even find her feet she’s adopted a leprechaun, managed to trap a monkey paw and formed a sarcastic relationship with the shop’s magic mirror. Favourite cousin; the wild and highly amusing musician Charlie, also drops in for a visit, although she acts to me, and everyone else, like she’s staying for quite a while.

As Allie probes deeper into the mystery that was her grandmother she becomes involved with a charming reporter, who has an interesting sideline as a magical sniper for a malevolent sorcerer, and realises that the dragon in Calgary may have something to do with her Gran’s disappearance. Auntie Jane tells her great niece: ‘Dragons are not this family’s business.’
Allie counters with ‘Unless one ate Gran.’
‘Yes, unless one ate your grandmother.’ Auntie Jane sighs resignedly.
To get herself and everyone near and dear to her out of this Allie is going to need every member of her high powered family she can get and will have to call on powers she never knew she had.

I had a ball reading The Enchantment Emporium, and although the book is largely laying the groundwork for the concept and a series (the sequel The Wild Ways, has just come out and as that is from Charlie’s point of view; one of my favourite characters from the opener, it should be a hoot) it never really flags. There’s enough weight behind the concepts and the tension is good, which stops it from straying too far into light and fluffy territory. The ideas are fun and interesting, the characters are engaging and appealing as well as being multifaceted with depth. One small quibble there, I got very early on that Allie’s best friend and adopted Gale; Michael, was a big guy, I didn’t need it spelled out nearly every time the character was mentioned. The dialogue between the characters flows and it snap, crackle and pops with plenty of pop culture references as any self respecting Urban Fantasy book should. I’m also in total agreement that Sci-Fi cancelling The Dresden Files was a very bad thing.

I hope the series gets the attention and popularity it deserves because I’d like to learn more about the Gales, and I think The Enchantment Emporium has only just scratched the surface.

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