The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

Let me just start by saying I ended the book with a chuckle and an "Oh, that was good."

I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give it. When I started the book, I was probably around a 3, because the first scene in chapter one didn't sound like it had anything to do with the back-cover blurb. The characters weren't any of the ones named on the cover. I was expecting to start off hearing about Allie or Charlie. After all, they're the ones mentioned on the back cover. But it didn't take me all that long to figure out how Amelia Carson and her associates were involved.

Skipping the first paragraph due to library barcode covering part, and it's mostly a background on the Gale family anyway:

The Gale Aunties rule the family, or they think they do. And cousins Allie and Charlie have often found themselves beset by too many Aunties trying to control them. Now that Allie has settled down and has her own Gale circle in Calgary, the Aunties are focusing even more attention on Charlie. She wishes they'd just leave her alone. After all, she has a steady job with an up and coming country and western band and a great home in Calgary.

But the truth is Charlie Gale is a Wild Power and there's nothing wild about the life she's living. So she ditches it to join a Celtic Rock band on the summer festival circuit. All Charlie wants to do is play music and have a good time. She has no plans to get involved in a local fight against offshore drilling...fought by an extended family of Selkies against an oil company willing to employ the most horrific means to get what they want. They've hired one of the Gale Aunties to steal the Selkies' sealskins.

To return the skins to their rightful owners and stop a potential environmental disaster, Charlie will have to face off with Auntie Catherine, another Wild Power. To have any hope of winning, Charlie will have to learn what born to be Wild means in the Gale family--then teach it to Jack, a Dragon Prince trying to be a real boy--all while attempting corporate espionage with a seal-wife who won't stop crying.

Oh, Jack. Now there's a fascinating character. While he's just briefly mentioned in the synopsis, he plays more of a direct role in this book than Allie. Straddling two worlds, he is trying to learn how to be a Gale boy and fumbling because many of the Gale Aunties don't trust him. After all, he's a bit Wild Power-esque like Charlie since he's a really a dragon. And being a teenager means he doesn't have full maturity yet. (Though it buys him some leeway with the distrustful Aunties.) It's a tough situation. But his secondary arc fits well with Charlie's primary arc, and together they figure out how to deal with Auntie Catherine.

Speaking of Auntie Catherine, she kept me guessing throughout the book. Amelia is the obvious villain of the story, but even though Auntie Catherine is working with her, her goals are clearly not the same. Her motivations are hidden; even Amelia doesn't understand why Auntie Catherine is involved. Auntie Catherine goads Charlie here and there, almost like she wants Charlie to face her, but not out of malice. It's not until halfway through the last chapter that everything falls into place about Auntie Catherine's true goals. And no, I won't spoil it for you. It was a fantastic payoff.

Charlie herself was fun for me to follow, though I had this parallel to Bedlam's Bard by Lackey in the back of my head for part of the book. However, BB didn't hold my interest that well, and this one did. I loved the setting and characters, even the antagonists (well, loved how they were done, not necessarily themselves). They weren't black and white. Amelia was a real person with real-person goals I could understand, even though her methods and intents are still ones I'd oppose. She wasn't particularly nice either, but I could understand her drive.

All in all, I hope you give this book a shot. After considering everything, I gave it 4 stars, though it finished more like a 4.5. I'll also be looking for book one, The Enchanted Emporium, because I just found out this is actually a book 2, and I never noticed it by the way the story arc unfolds. It's complete by itself. Have fun, and don't mind the Selkies who've stopped by. They're just hoping you read it, too.

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

If Howard Morton and Freddie the Frog Killer were trying to hold you down so that Mary Lou Hutton could kiss you, you might run as fast as Jeremy Thatcher did the day he stumbled into Mr. Elives's Magic Shop.

And if you stumbled into that strange shop, you too might be asked to make a choice. What would you buy? The Chinese rings? The Skull of Truth? Or the dragon's egg? And if you did buy the dragon's egg, what would you do when you found you were supposed to hatch it?

This wasn't the first book I'd read by Coville. That would be My Teacher Is an Alien, followed by My Teacher Glows in the Dark, My Teacher Fried My Brains, My Teacher Flunked the Planet, and Aliens Ate My Homework. As you can see, I'd already formed a fondness for his stories. This was the first for me of his fantasies though. (But not the last)

Jeremy loves to draw, but his art teacher seems to hate him. Nothing he does ever seems to be good enough. It doesn't help that Mr. Kravitz read the embarrassing note Mary Lou had left for Jeremy out loud to the class but didn't punish her in any way. Majorly unfair.

In trying to get away from Mary Lou after school, Jeremy ends up in a strange magic shop he doesn't remember ever seeing before. While wandering around, he notices several curious objects, including a multi-colored ball with changing hues. Mr. Elives allows him to buy it for a quarter, saying that it had chosen him. Whatever that means.

When he gets home and reads the folded paper Mr. Elives had given him with it, he finds out. It's instructions for hatching an egg. That is only the beginning of it all, too. He's expected to care for it. It isn't easy to hide a baby dragon in his house, even with a multitude of pets around since his dad is the town vet. And what is he going to do when it gets bigger? How big can it grow?

One of the things I find so appealing about this story is that Jeremy's issues are anchored in the real world. He's an ordinary 6th grader who has to balance his normal issues with that of dragon caretaker. Any of us could have found ourselves in Jeremy's shoes. And let me tell you, I'd wanted a dragon like his so bad even though I would've had to go through the same heartache he did when the dragon was old enough to go her home world.

It's well worth reading.