I finished rereading The Enchantment Emporium last week after starting The Wild Ways. I had read the first one in 2010 and it had been so long that I had to reread it to remember it. Not something I do very often. The first book was great so I was happy to reread it and the second one lived up the potential of the first one so I am very happy about that.
I want to start by saying that I loved that the protagonist, not just one of the side characters, is on the quiltbag spectrum. Charlie is bisexual with a leaning towards preferring men. She is also not at all monogamous and very casual about sex, which is a very liberating thing to see in a protagonist. Oh and it never gets her into any kind of trouble. Tanya Huff, thank you for writing a 3 dimensional bisexual woman who does not get shamed or punished for her sexuality. The only person who ever thinks it strange is a selkie who is also ageless and very old. Charlie is not the only quiltbag character in the book either, she is in a polyamorous relationship Alysha and Alysha’s boyfriend and one of the band members in Charlies band is gay.
While the first book is centered around Alysha, the second book has Charlie as the central character. And yes Charlie is a woman. She is one of the minor point of view characters in the first book. In this second book her cousin Jack, the dragon prince from the first book is the other major point of view character. He is 14 and is trying to figure out his place in his new family while he also tries to figure out who he is and how he feels about Earth. Jack finding his identity and place in the world is a major subplot and one that I quite enjoyed.
The book is very much about the celtic music scene on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada where Charlie joins a band that plays in a musical festival over the summer. The dynamic of the band and music play a big part of the background of the book and there are a lot of music references – that I didn’t get, I am not really into celtic alt-rock music. If I had not been reading it as an audiobook I might have found a celtic rock radio station to listen to while reading.
The first book had dragons as their main supernatural player, the second one is on the selkie band wagon. Many modern selkie stories had them cast as the victims, but selkies of The Wild Ways are very much in control of their own destiny. They exchange their land-men so they became very accepting of the supernatural and the weird and very much in love with their selkie-women. It would however not really be a selkie story if they had not lost their skin and this is where the main plot starts. An oil company is holding their skin hostage to make a selkie-backed environmentalist group back off a shallow water oil well that is to be built near the island. Charlie decides that since her aunt Catherine had stolen the skins it is up to Charlie to get them back. All the while she is playing in her band of course.
I really liked the story and the characters of the book. The musicians are all lovely characters that though they don’t get a lot of page-time feel very much like fully fleshed characters. There is of course some awesome banter and snark all around. The action is fun and interesting. Oh and there is a cage troll. Like in the first book there is a lot of pop culture references, which is awesome – the cage troll is one of them. And it is altogether an enjoyable and entertaining read. I hope there will be more stories in the series. I would love to know more of the Gale family. Definitely recommended.
The author: Female, white, Canada
The protagonist: Charlie Gale, bisexual, white, witch, musician, able-bodied.
Setting: Calgary, Canada, present day