Ahh, Tanya Huff. Author of the Blood books, turned into the short-lived Blood Ties series. Author of the Smoke books, starring a character who was from the Blood books but got cut from the TV show. Author of the Valor’s Choice series of novels that I haven’t actually read, but I know they’re SF with a nice strong female lead. She also wrote The Fire’s Stone, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light (one of my favorites), the Keeper books, and the novels of Crystal, together in a volume called Wizard of the Grove. Also a bunch of collections of short stories. Seriously, with this much published, it’s kind of amazing that there are spec-fic fans who haven’t read SOMETHING of hers.
The Enchantment Emporium is set in a new universe, just a bit removed from our own (or maybe it IS our own) where there’s a family of powerful women, surnamed Gale, who nudge the universe around by immense personal ability. Alysha Catherine Gale (Allie), our heroine, is twenty-four, jobless, and single when her grandmother (the family’s black sheep) gives her a store to run — the eponymous Enchantment Emporium. However, that means moving away from the family, out to Calgary. Obviously they can come visit, but apparently everyone is too busy actually to come with her. And then the strange things start happening — a tabloid reporter (very attractive, by the way) comes by, dragons start flying over the store, and faerie beings start showing up. What has Gran gotten Allie into?
The print on this book is different from most of the previous Tanya Huff books I’ve read — it’s finer and situated differently. I don’t know why this caused me to go into the book with a bit of trepidation, but it did. I wasn’t expecting it to be, well, so precisely Tanya Huff, but fortunately, it was. The magic structure reminded me a bit of the Keeper books, what with Aunts and Cousins all over the place, but other than similar terminology (and ontology), it was (I believe) distinct. Here we have a single family, albeit incredibly extensive (everyone seems to have tons of siblings) that, well, tends to intermarry (although the aunts make sure that they’re second cousins or more) and keep the same surname. In the Keeper books, none of that was necessarily true — I think there were many different families.
Once we get past the family and its first wacky set of family members, we get to Calgary and its wacky set of inhabitants. There’s a leprechaun (a bit tall for one, really), a few Faeries (one who lives in the river), some incredibly attractive and incredibly dangerous dragons, a wizard or two (all wizards are evil, by the way), and a tabloid reporter. Believe me when I say that the tabloid reporter isn’t quite the most normal member of the batch. Tanya Huff has always been good at creating believable but
entirely unbelievable characters, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it’s more that I wish I lived in a world where the Aunties exist, where ritual magic can change the world, and where there are shapeshifting dragons who may or may not eat people.
Overall, the book is definitely going to appeal to fans of Tanya Huff’s work, and probably fans of other funny urban/contemporary fantasy authors. Those who like, obviously, strong characters and exciting magical showdowns will like this; those who are really invested in complicated mystery plots probably will figure out what’s happening well before the end, but the ride is great. The ending is somewhat deus ex machina-esque — okay, very deus ex machina-esque — but it’s forgivable, given the circumstances that precede it. I’m looking forward to see if Ms. Huff ever writes more in this world, although the volume
definitely stands alone. 4/5 stars.