In a world where magic is real, how would it feel to be ordinary? Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson, book one of the Enchanted series, introduces us to Katie Chandler, a truly ordinary Texas girl in New York. Katie has been deleting the vague e-mailed job offers from MSI, Inc., but when her dreadful Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde boss drives her to desperation, she decides to see what MSI has to offer.
In the strangest job interview I’ve ever heard of, Katie learns that magic is real and that elves, fairies, wizards, and gargoyles exist. MSI – Magic, Spells, and Illusions – searches for rare people like Katie with no trace of magic in them who are therefore immune to the effects of magic. It doesn’t take long for Katie to accept their job offer.
An engaging pace
Within her first week at MSI, Katie manages to catch an invisible spy, befriend the elderly CEO, develop a crush on a coworker, and involve herself in an effort to take care of Phelan Idris, a disgruntled ex-employee with an unfortunate interest in black magic. Events, both magical and commonplace, whoosh past at a pace that leaves Katie, and the reader, feeling slightly overwhelmed. The words don’t get in the way of the story, and while there are some scenes without much action, the story maintains a brisk, engaging pace. This book is possible to put down, but I don’t expect you’ll want to stop reading until the end.
The familiar and unfamiliar
Swendson starts the reader off with a familiar scene: a chronically single woman working at a dead-end job for a terrible boss, barely making enough to get by. Anyone who’s dreaded going to work in the morning, pinched pennies, or had a mind-numbingly boring blind date can relate to Katie’s life. But when she is thrown headfirst into the unfamiliar, talking to gargoyles suddenly seems perfectly natural to me. This smooth transition from our familiar New York to Katie’s magical New York is certainly aided by the first-person narration as the reader gets to experience the sudden paradigm shift right along with Katie. And she handles the changes well, at least until a girl’s night out with her new coworkers ends with them in Central Park kissing frogs.
Swendson smoothly introduces the unfamiliar to a familiar world, taking a familiar fantasy trope – that of the protagonist learning that magic is real and that she can use it, often to save the world – and turns it on its head with a heroine who learns that she can’t use magic at all. Yet that very lack of magic is what makes Katie so interesting to me. Even though she’s a perfectly ordinary woman, she doesn’t sit back and leave saving the world to the powerful wizards. This creative twist on a common premise is pulled off masterfully.
Just a hint of romance
Fortunately for those like me who enjoy a little romance, the magical tension developing between MSI and Idris is balanced by the perfectly commonplace stream of eligible bachelors Katie’s roommate tries to set her up with. From the blind date who spoke two words to her the entire evening and then declared she was like a sister, to the former frog she disenchanted who follows her around serenading her in gratitude, Katie’s romantic woes leave the reader laughing and groaning right along with her.
Those who don’t appreciate romance might be put off by the amount of time Katie spends mooning over her crush, the shy, cute, and powerful wizard in charge of Research & Development. Those who do appreciate romance might be disappointed at the lack of anything beyond mooning. Nowhere was I more frustrated with Katie than when she interacted with her crush. I found her reticence frustrating, even though I’m sure I would act the same way around such a powerful figure.
The world we see through Katie’s eyes is populated with believable people. Some are more likable than others, but even the ultimate villain of the story has understandable motives. The CEO maintains a lovable balance between doddering old man and incredibly powerful wizard, while the personnel manager’s sleazy, overconfident front masks an eager, boyish heart. There are also a number of interesting minor characters I look forward to seeing developed further in the future installments of the series.
Throughout the book, I found myself cheering as things went well for Katie and groaning when things went wrong. I occasionally found myself yelling at her for being an idiot, while secretly admitting that I would have done the same thing in her situation. When faced with unbelievable situations, the characters still react believably. None of the characters are perfect, but they are perfectly fun to read.
Why should you read this book?
Enchanted, Inc. is a delightful frolic through the magical streets of New York. If you’re looking for a quick, light, fast-paced read, this may be the book for you.