Review: “The Wild Ways,” Tanya Huff

Pros: Delightful tale of magic and humor
Cons:
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

Charlie is a Wild Power, but she’s been acting distinctly un-Wild lately, nearly settled down with her cousin Allie and Allie’s guy, Graham. She’s even been helping to raise Jack, their Dragon Prince of a cousin. Realizing that she needs to get moving, Charlie picks up and heads out with a Celtic Rock band. She brings Jack, who needs a break from Allie’s all-too-mothering supervision. He’s fourteen after all–not four or forty.

The Gale family keeps itself to itself. Its members can take care of themselves with the use of charms and other magics, but Charlie’s Wild nature means that she can choose to involve herself in others’ affairs. Unfortunately so can Auntie Catherine, another Wild Power, and she’s decided to help an oil company by stealing the sealskins of a family of Selkies so that the company can blackmail them. Charlie, who finds herself drawn to one of the Selkies, will need every resource at her disposal to face off against one of the dreaded Gale Aunties.

 

The Wild Ways is a sequel to Tanya Huff’s delightful The Enchantment Emporium. No matter which series Huff is writing–her military SF Confederation books, her urban fantasy Gale books, or her urban fantasy Keeper books, among others–she’s a delight to read. She has a knack for providing laugh-out-loud quotes. Her writing is whimsical and unique.

“Are you scared of her?”

“Wary. Careful. Confronting an auntie has been known to end in gingerbread.”

“I like gingerbread,” Jack pointed out.

“As a career choice?”

“Oh.”

Huff’s characters come to life on the pages. My favorite in The Wild Ways is Jack, the fourteen-year-old Dragon Prince and Gale boy. He’s still trying to find his place in this world, with the threat of being judged when he reaches age fifteen hanging over his head–he’s a sorcerer with a great deal of power, something that the Gale family doesn’t approve of at all. Charlie’s take is that Jack is another Wild Power, and she’s ready to help Jack take ownership of that label. Huff draws Jack in a fantastic blend of fourteen-year-old boy and alien dragon raised in constant danger.

Charlie is great fun–she gives Huff an excuse to have the Gales interact with the outside world, and her relaxed attitude is unusual and fun in a fantasy protagonist. Her chosen milieu of Celtic festivals provides plenty of background hilarity and ambiance, as do Charlie’s friends. While the bad-guy oil company executive is a little on the stereotypically evil side, she’s a rather fun character. Also her assistant, Paul, turns out to have some depth and interest to him. As for the Selkie Charlie takes an interest in, Eineen, it’s great to see how her demeanor changes as her circumstances change, and it all makes sense in the context of her personality.

Charlie is creative in her use of her power and in how she handles the challenges thrown her way. All in all, The Wild Ways is a worthy successor to The Enchantment Emporium.

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