Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

In this sequel to The Magic Emporium, I felt like I had a bit more of a clue what's going on with the whole Gale family, though it took a bit to get back into the flow of family politics. The focus of the action moves from Allie to Charlie (Charlotte), one of the younger members of the clan who has not yet been forced to take her place in the hierarchy, and who is, indeed, a bit of a wild child, spending most of her time on the road playing music, whether it's rock & roll, country, or Celtic. After returning from a long country tour, through Canada, she gets an offer to go on the festival circuit with a Celtic group, and rapidly decides, with a little prompting from the magic mirror in Allie's shoppe, to go for it.

Allie's grandmother, Catherine, is stirring up some trouble again, by getting into the middle of a political battle between an "evil" oil company that wants to drill offshore on the Breton coast, and a group of environmentalists trying to stop the project. The environmentalists' core leadership turns out to be a band of Selkies, whose primary concern is preserving the pristine nature of the oceans for their race; any benefit to humans is purely incidental. When one of the band members' girlfriend turns out to be a Selkie, and Charlie finds out that her skin (which allows Selkies to transform between their human and seal shapes) has been stolen, and along with four others' skins, being held hostage by the head of the oil company, it only follows naturally that she'll bring her Gale powers to bear on the situation.

There's a lot of fun stuff in here about the antics of the band members on tour, and some references that will probably make a lot of sense to Celtic music fans, and some subtle moralizing on the dangers of offshore drilling, while acknowledging the need for cheap energy and jobs. I figured out fairly early that Aunt Catherine's motivations weren't quite what they seemed, though I didn't find out the full truth until the big reveal at the end

Charlie and Allie's "nephew", Jack, becomes an integral part of this story. He's a teenager, and that's a dangerous thing for a Gale sorcerer, and even more dangerous time for a dragon Prince. Coming to terms with his odd status in the family, both for him and the elder Aunties, is fraught with trouble, but by the end of this story, his character gets a bit more fleshed out and he seems to secure a place for himself. I wouldn't be too surprised to see him as the primary character in a sequel, actually.

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