The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

The Wild Ways

I’m a pretty forgiving reader, most of the time.  Unless the first book in a series is something that I really didn’t like, I’ll often choose to give the second book a chance.  Sometimes that gets me interested in the series, and sometimes it doesn’t.  With Tanya Huff’s novels about the Gale family, the former is the case.  I wasn’t all that enamored of The Enchantment Emporium, but I liked The Wild Ways a lot more.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Alysha Gale’s cousin Charlotte is a Wild Power, who allies herself with a family of Selkies in a fight against offshore oil drilling. The oil company has hired another of the Gale family’s Wild Powers, the fearsome Auntie Catherine, to steal the Selkies’ sealskins. To defeat her, Charlotte will have to learn what born to be Wild really means in the Gale family…”

Whereas the first novel in this series introduced a large number of characters and established a somewhat confusing basis for the family interactions, this book thinks smaller.  The vast majority of the narrative follows Charlotte as she unexpectedly ends up in a Celtic music competition and realizes that she’s the only one who can face down her aunt and figure out what she’s doing.  There are plenty of minor characters, but with Charlotte being such a strong leading lady, the novel gains a good deal of focus.

I also liked that The Wild Ways stuck with one real mythical tradition: the British Isles.  Between the Celtic music and the Selkie population, there isn’t much room for deviation.  This also allows for a single conflict that bleeds into the rest of the novel and ties it together: the theft of the Selkie sealskins.

The story had a lot of the humor that I’ve come to expect from Huff’s writing.  It’s not an in-you-face type of humor, but it’s gentle and fits in with the way you expect people to actually talk to each other.  Typically, the humor is character driven—what one of them says or how they view a situation.  It keeps the action from descending into silliness but also keeps it from getting too dark and grim.

My favorite character, and the one that I feel is the best written one, is Jack.  He’s a fourteen year old who is half dragon prince and a shapeshifter, and half of the Gale family lineage.  The way he acts and talks is so typical of a boy his age that he really springs to life.  It also allows him to play off of the older family members who still see him as a child, and off of Charlotte, who is willing to allow him some freedom.

The Wild Ways is a light, fun romp, ranging from Canadian Celtic music festivals to deep and spooky mines.  There’s action, adventure and a few laughs.  Huff has provided a complete package of delightful elements fused together into an eminently enjoyable novel.

Also by this author: The Enchantment Emporium, Long Hot Summoning

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on December 7, 2011.

Series: The Gale Family
ISBN: 9780756406868
Publisher: DAW
Page Count: 295
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher