The Enchantment Emporium
Published 2009 473 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
The Gales of southern Ontario can change the world with the charms they cast, and they prefer to keep all this power in the family. The Gale Aunties are in charge of this clan, or they like to think they are. Alysha, like all her cousins, often finds herself beset with too many Aunties trying to run her life. So when a letter arrives telling her that she’d inherited a junk shop in Calgary, Alysha is ready and willing to honour her grandmother’s last request to keep the shop open and serve “the community.” The Aunties, of course, want her to find out what really happened to Gran and come right back home, where they have her future mapped out for her.
It isn’t until she arrives in Calgary that Alysha realizes it’s the fey community she’ll be serving in The Enchantment Emporium – and that one person’s junk may be another person’s magical treasure. Finding out what happened to Gran will not be easy, especially since Alysha has no way of knowing how much otherworldly trouble in brewing in Calgary. And even calling in Family reinforcements may not be enough to save the day…
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff is not the most obvious choice for review on a site dedicated to vampire fiction. Tanya Huff is most widely known for her Blood series books featuring Vicki Nelson a PI who works with a vampire to solve supernatural mysteries. (These books went on to become the Blood Ties TV show.) The Blood books would have been the most obvious review choice because while The Enchantment Emporium is an urban fantasy novel, there are no vampires in the story. Still I can’t help but think that the Blood books have already been reviewed to death and although I enjoyed reading them years before I started writing reviews of vampire fiction I’ve never had any inclination to reread them just so that I could write up reviews.
So why pick The Enchantment Emporium? Well, I’ve always been convinced that if I was to ever write an urban fantasy story I’d set it in a junk shop that was actually a front for the magical community. This idea is inspired by a pawn shop near where I live that has the most obscure and bizarre collection of junk in the window – I’m convinced that no human being would actually want anything in the shop and yet it’s still in business (therefore it must be magic!) Seeing that Tanya Huff has beaten me to it with the whole magic/junk shop idea I just had to read the story.
The Enchantment Emporium is the first book in a series, although it doesn’t have a cliff-hanger ending so it could also be read as a stand alone story. There is a lot of world building to do in any new fantasy novel and while no fantasy reader enjoys an obvious information dump we don’t enjoy just being dropped straight into the story without a clue about what’s going on either. The author throws readers into the deep-end and expects them to swim through some pretty baffling events and narrative. I kept going back to check that this book was a stand alone story because it read more like a later instalment (maybe part 4 or 5) where readers would be expected to already know what was going on in this world. This is perhaps the biggest impediment to enjoying The Enchantment Emporium and even by the end of the story I was still no the wiser about a lot of the background to the magic and Gale Family.
However, stick with the story and it gets much better once Alysha arrives in Calgary and takes possession of her Gran’s junk shop. With the help of Joe, a homeless leprechaun, Alysha gets to grips with the junk in the shop – soon realising that some of the dusty products are actually magical artefacts in hiding. The author delivers some great dialogue and all of the characters are realistically written – fully fleshed out and well-rounded. The fantasy elements are imaginative and the story pacing carries readers past a lot of the bumps caused by the lack of background world building information.
The second biggest thing likely to put readers off this story is the Gale family itself. It likes to “keep all this power in the family”. Their way of doing this is to not breed outside the family. Magical rituals seem to end in weirdly incestuous sex and while the sex scenes are left to the readers’ imagination, rather than being written, there are just some things I don’t want to imagine (incestuous sex with m/m, m/f, f/f and threesome groupings being pretty much at the top of my list.) Outside of the icky sex, the way that the females of the family effectively control the males is distasteful (in a different way) too.
The Enchantment Emporium is slow to start and while it gains pace and power as it develops this (for me) was not enough to counteract its fairly weighty bad points. However, if you’ve ever wondered about the magical properties of the contents in the window of your home town junk shop this story might just be for you…
LoveVampires Review Rating: