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Book Review: The Wild Ways

Written by Tanya Huff
Published by Titan Books

The Wild Ways is the follow-up to The Enchantment Emporium (which I reviewed here), focussing on Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Gale – she is a cousin of Alysha ‘Allie’ Gale, the lead in the first book, and was also a major character in the story. Unlike the other women in the Gale family (the aunties, who have certain magical abilities), Charlie is a rare Wild Power – she is not tied to any particular location, she has the ability to travel between places through the Woods, and can do her magic with music, which is perhaps why she enjoys a carefree life as a jobbing musician, travelling with bands and playing session gigs. However, since Allie took over her grandmother’s Enchantment Emporium in Calgary in the first book, Charlie has felt more at home there than anywhere else, something which has the aunties worried. Of course, this wouldn’t be a story if everyone settled down and was happy …

Amelia Carson is CEOof Carson Oil, turning around the fortunes of the company after taking over from her father, and is on the verge of acquiring the rights to one of the biggest oil fields in the North Atlantic, near Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. However, it is near a seal sanctuary, so environmentalist groups have started to protest, which means that Amelia has to turn to a woman who says she can do something about it; the only trouble is that the woman says she’s related to the Gales …

Independently of this, Gale family stuff becomes unbalanced and Charlie’s life is nudged towards Cape Breton when she receives an invitation to rejoin a Celtic band playing in a festival near the seal sanctuary; the fiddler in the band has girlfriend who is distraught because she has lost a family heirloom – except she’s not a normal girl: she’s a Selkie, a mythological creature who is a seal in the ocean but discards her sealskin to become a human when she comes on land and bonds herself with a human. The family heirloom is her sealskin, and she and several of her sisters have had their sealskins stolen as blackmail – the Selkies are behind the environmentalist group protesting against the oil company, and so will only get them back if they retract their protest.

Charlie gets involved because she realises who is behind it: her Auntie Catherine Gale, the other Wild Power in the family. Charlie takes with her Jack, the new member of the Gale family, who looks like a teenage boy but is actually a Dragon Prince from the Underworld as well as being a sorcerer (his father was a Gale man who had gone bad), and they go on an adventure that will affect their futures for ever …

Huff once again displays fresh and fun prose for a contemporary fantasy novel – there are geek references (Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings) and a negative mention of Justin Bieber, and a wry turn of phrase (Charlie: ‘Wow. Her inner voice had gotten sarcastic of late.’) which make this a very enjoyable, breezy read. There is an expansion of the world she has created for the Gale women, and she has a great way with characters – the banter between Charlie and Jack is particularly delightful – and I really enjoy the way she mixes folklore in an modern setting. The focus on the Celtic music scene doesn’t really do anything for me – Huff plays folk music herself, so knows music and is able to convey a sense of the natural power of songs, but it didn’t draw me into the story the way that it obviously appeals to Huff. This makes the story a little slow to get going, but it’s worth keeping with it because the last third is exciting as well as resonant when Charlie and Jack realise things about themselves (she has a particularly good handle on the teenage aspect of Jack the Dragon Prince). It’s a very enjoyable story, although I think I prefer Allie to Charlie as my focus in the Gale women stories.

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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