My TBR pile has reached ridiculous proportions – and I’m trying to get on top of it. Really. But there are a handful of books that immediately jump the queue as soon as I can get my hands on them – and this quirky, unusual series is one of them. I knew I was reading something special several pages into the first book, The Enchantment Emporium – see my review here. And as far as I’m concerned, it just keeps getting better. I love the Gale family and their twisty machinations…
When Charlotte Gale’s aunt warns their magical family of an approaching asteroid, they scramble to keep humanity from going the way of the dinosaurs. Although between Charlie’s complicated relationship with sorcerer Jack, her cousin Allie’s hormones, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack’s sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie’s fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems. This could have so easily been an adrenaline junkie’s dream with constant action-packed pages of chases… scary magical confrontations ending in blood and gore – and it would have still been an engrossing read. But the cool, ironic tone of the blurb nicely echoes the emotional tenor of the books.
Big hefty stuff goes on within the Gale family – stuff that would probably very much interest social services if they got to hear of it, as sex is a very useful conduit for accessing magical power within family members. However, while Ritual and the aunts’ enthusiastic sexual tastes are regularly alluded to, Huff relies on our imaginations to join the dots. So when a planet-killing asteroid is revealed far too late for NASA to do anything about it and the Gale family get to hear of it, the life and death struggles to find some kind of solution that doesn’t include wiping out the majority of humanity (that the Gale family will survive is a given, now they can take avoiding action) is handled with a low-key intensity that nevertheless had me reading far into the night to discover what would happen next.
I really enjoy Charlie’s character. She is a musician, who channels a lot of her significant magical strength through various soundtracks. As something of a misfit, she has access to the Wild magic, like Aunt Catherine, who left the Enchantment Emporium to Allie in the first book. She is also very attracted to seventeen-year-old Jack, who is attracted back. But family rules preclude any kind of relationship outside of Ritual between them because the age gap is too wide. Given the way sex is used within the Family, it isn’t spelt out exactly why such a rule is written in stone, but I’m sure readers can work out why it’s such a good idea to protect younger family members in this way. Which is when the ironic understatement running through the book becomes really effective. Charlie is all too well aware that thwarted love is a cliché, and her attempts to try and live with the fact that she and Jack won’t ever get a chance to be a couple gain real poignancy and emotional punch because she isn’t sobbing and moping about it. In fact, Huff manages to get a fair amount of wry humour out of the situation, when it becomes common knowledge throughout the Gale family.
And, for me, it is the backdrop of this vividly powerful family that raises this accomplished read from a really enjoyable series to outstanding. The Gale family is run by the aunts, who gain power through their sexual maturation after producing children – preferably girls. For Gale boys and men who are powerful enough to become sorcerers are killed before they can do too much damage. The aunts bake when they get together, and are often squabbling and eccentric. But as with any entity that is extremely powerful and knows it – they are also dangerous. Huff never lets us forget this. It’s a nifty trick to pull off. I love the fact that the Gale family never comes across as too cosy, or let the fact they are run by a matriarchy means they are kinder or softer… Understanding, maybe, but not kind. They can’t afford to be – they are running a family with sufficient power to level the world. And this is another trick Huff has pulled off – the Gales are something beyond human and the more we see about their adventures, the more alien they are.
If you enjoy well-written urban fantasy with a grown-up spin on it, then give this series a go. And yes – jump in at The Future Falls if you must. Huff has ensured you won’t flounder too much if you read these out of order, but I do advise to get the very best out of this series, you start at the first book. As for me, despite having more books to read than I know what to do with – I’m now waiting impatiently for the next slice of Gale goodness… 10/10