The Enchantment Emporium - Tanya Huff

This book reminds me of salted caramel ice cream: the soft smooth sweetness grabs your attention and delights your tongue, but it's that grain of salt, hinting at something earthier and less conventional, that makes it addictive.

 

In some ways, "The Enchantment Emporium" is a paranormal romance wrapped around the mystery of a disappearing Auntie. There's a feisty, literally charming heroine, with a recently broken heart and an all-consuming family; an attractive, mysterious, potentially lethal.male stranger, a Scooby-gang of leprechauns, fey, witches, and family members with very large...horns, facing off against dragons that, in their human form, have killer cheekbones.

 

We could almost be in Half Moon Hollow except, beneath the cosy but casual sex and the pop culture references to Star Wars and Firefly, Tanya Huff has created something alien and darkly dangerous: the Gale Women.

 

At first I thought of the Gales as a particularly large, rambunctious family of witches, with a tendency towards charming but harmless eccentricity. It took me a while to realise that the Gales are not really human, nor are they really individuals in the way I'm used to thinking about it. They reminded me an ancient forest, each tree proud and strong but connected by roots and tendrils that mean that they can best be understood as a collective entity.

 

The Gale women are enormously powerful. The Gale women outnumber the Gale men. The Gale women manipulate the breeding lines to keep the family strong. The Gale women become more dangerous and more eccentric as they become Aunties.

 

Once I understood that the lethal, alien, power of the Gale women is the grain of salt in this ice cream, I realised that I wasn't reading a paranormal romance. There is no romance here: sex, ownership, even a little love, but no romance. This is the story of a Gale woman coming into her powers and forcing some new shapes into the pattern woven by the family.

 

"The Enchanted Emporium" was a fun read from the first page, where I was dropped, with almost no explanation, into the chaos of a large unconventional family and left to enjoy working out what the hell was going on. I'll be visiting the Gale women again very soon.