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."