Monday, June 29, 2009

The Enchantment Emporium

This new urban fantasy novel by one of my very favorite authors, Tanya Huff, introduces a cast of characters I quickly grew to adore. The story is set in Canada, and our heroine is Alysha "Allie" Gale, a young woman from a mysteriously magical family, who has just received a letter from her grandmother that says if she's reading it, her grandmother is dead. It goes on to say that she has bequeathed her shop in Calgary to Allie.

Allie has recently lost her job at a museum, due to lack of funding. She's also nursing a broken heart, as the man she has been in love with since childhood has found his perfect man. He's still her best friend, but she can't help being depressed that he'll never be anything more. Getting away, for the first time in her life, from her myriad controlling aunties sounds like a great idea, but when she arrives in Calgary, she discovers that her grandmother's "junk shop" is actually full of magical artifacts (including a repulsive monkey's paw and a mirror with a mind of its own) and caters to the magical community. What was her grandmother up to? And what's with all the yoyos she sells?

She has never truly believed that her grandmother is really dead, and she is determined to find out what happened to her. Allie's aunties want to know what's going on, and they keep calling to find out, but the more Allie discovers, the less she wants to tell them. Before she knows it, she's embroiled in a sticky situation involving dragons, a surprisingly tall leprechaun, a sorcerer, and a tabloid reporter with the bluest eyes she's ever seen...

I hesitate to say too much about this one, because the narrative unfolds in such a lovely, complex way that works perfectly and is full of delightful surprises (and some not-so-delightful ones as well). The relationships among the characters are presented very effectively through actions and dialogue, so that I quickly felt emotionally connected to them. The mysterious Gale women, with their unusual pie-baking skills and charmed way of navigating life, are fascinating - but not half as fascinating as their men.

There is a lot of complexity in this novel, in both plot and characters, as well as a lot of subtext, with many things not explicitly spelled out. I found myself going back to reread sections in order to glean the truth of what exactly was going on, which was a lot of fun. Allie is an engaging heroine - smart and strong but with enough inexperience that she makes quite a few mistakes along the way - but usually for just the right reasons. The Gales reminded me a bit of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's mysterious families of magic users, and readers who enjoy her novels, as well as those who are up for an intriguing modern urban fantasy romp, would be sure to enjoy this one. I do hope Tanya Huff will write more books centered around this fascinating family - it feels as though we've just begun to scratch the surface of everything it has to offer.

Here is a fascinating interview with Tanya Huff at SciFiGuy's blog.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff (DAW Books, 2009)

Also reviewed at:
SciFiGuy: "I loved every minute that I spent with the remarkable Gale clan and didn’t want it to end. Charming and funny, this is a novel about family, love and magic that you won’t want to miss."

15 comments:

  1. In her other novels, Tanya Huff has had a tendency to include lines that you'll remember (usually due to their making you laugh far too hard) years later.

    Is that the case here as well?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Elena - Oh, absolutely! There are lines of dialogue that had me laughing out loud, and just her way of describing certain things is spot on and often hilarious. I should have mentioned that in the review!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ooo! Yay! This looks so exciting - but it's in hard cover! Argh! And I am especially excited to see that it's in Canada. heehee!

    I liked Huff's Summoning series (is that what it is? Long Hot Summoning, etc?) so I am eager to try this one. It's on my wishlist with a note that I will wait for pb now!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cat - Oh, I hate that wait for the hardcover. It's so hard! I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think. I loved those summoning books, too - I need to reread those some time, maybe when I'm finished with my reread of the Blood books.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Darla thanks for the links. This really was a terrific book. I like your observation that "a lot of subtext, with many things not explicitly spelled out". This really did make for more interesting and engaging reading.

    ReplyDelete
  6. SciFiGuy - Thanks for posting about the book when it was first released - I heard about it from you and put it on hold at my library right away, so I got a brand-new copy to read! I enjoyed your review. And you're right - even some short stories would be great. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. well you just made my wish list one book longer! Nice review, I will put it on ye ol' wish list for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Tanya Huff is at it again I see. Sounds like a great novel. I'm going to have to check this one out as well. I loved the Blood Books.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Deslily - Oh, I think you'll really like this one. I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think when you get to it.

    Serena - Me, too. She never fails to deliver!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sometimes you read a review and instantly know you want to read the book. This is the case here. Adding it to my 'to get' list.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Cath - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've never read any of Tanya Huff's books, but this one sounds like something I'd love. Off to my wishlist (again!) :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fyrefly - this is a great one to start out with. I have a feeling it won't be the only book by Tanya Huff that you'll be reading... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I liekd Blood Ties and am interested in reading the novels it is based on. Maybe this is a better one to start with. Sounds good either way!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rhinoa - this one is really different from the Blood series, and I think Huff has grown considerably as a writer since her earlier books (which are still very good). So this one is more complex, I think, and has a lot more going on than the Blood ones. I think you'd like both, but as you say this one is a good starting point because you're not committing yourself to a whole new series.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment!