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Enchanted No More Paperback – Dec 21 2010
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About the Author
ROBIN D. OWENS has been writing longer than she cares to recall. Her fantasy/futuristic romances found a home at Berkley with HeartMate in December 2001. She’s gone on to write eleven more books in the series and collection of novellas in the Heart universe. She has written five titles for Luna™ Books in her Summoning series, and launched her Mystic Circle series with Enchanted No More.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A late January night, Denver
Jennie Weaver's skin prickled as the heaviness of ancient earth magic crossed her front boundary and marched up her sidewalk to her front porch.
A dwarf was at the door. The magical kind of dwarf, from the Lightfolk. He waited for her to acknowledge him. He could wait forever. She wasn't budging from her second-floor office.
The doorbell rang, a fruity ripple of notes that she'd gotten used to since she'd bought the house, and had begun to actually like.
She would not open the door. She'd been dodging phone calls from strange numbers for days.
The doorbell sounded again. She stared out the window, nothing to see but dark, no moon tonight, and her neighbors' windows weren't lit.
The doorbell rang a third time. And the clear phone on her desk lit up and trilled. And her cell in her bedroom warbled "The Ride of the Valkyries." She was afraid if she answered the door the tune might become all too appropriate.
She set her teeth, turned up her computer speakers and continued typing. The final tweaks to the new little story line for the mass multiplayer online game were due tonight.
Her computer died an unnatural death.
A supernatural death.
A touch-of-fey death.
She stared at it openmouthed.
The ringing and ringing and ringing went on.
Stomping downstairs in her fuzzy slippers, she peered out the peephole and saw no one, not on the drafty covered porch or the stoop beyond. Definitely a full-blooded dwarf if she couldn't see him.
Another bad sign.
She shouldn't open the door, but didn't think the dwarf would go away or her computer would come back on until she responded to all the noise.
Her cell tune changed to "Hall of the Mountain King." She hadn't programmed that in.
Hard raps against the doorof course he wouldn't use the silver Hand of Fatima knocker.
Knowing she was making a mistake, she opened the door. Recognized and stared down at a dapperly dressed dwarf in a dark gray tux. Drifmar. "What part of 'never darken my door again' did you Lightfolk not understand?"
He smiled ingratiatingly, addressed her by her birth name. "Mistress Jindesfarne Mistweaver, we've found a pair of brownies who'd indenture themselves to you, despite your many cats. A token of our esteem." He swept a hand toward two small beingsshorter and thinner than the four-foot solidly built dwarfshivering in the late-January cold. The long tips of their furry ears folded in for warmth. Both male and female were dressed only in white shorts and sleeveless tops.
Jenni looked at the goodwill offering. They were scrawny and wrinkled. Their triangular faces and equally large and usually triangular ears and small vicious pointy teeth made them look as mean as wet cats. They wrapped their arms around themselves and leaned together.
"I don't need household help," she said. "I am a productive member of human society, I have a cleaning team every month."
"You have a squirrel hole in your eaves above the door," Drifmar, the dwarf, pointed out.
"I like the squirrel hole," Jenni insisted. "I like the squirrels."
The brownies perked up.
The dwarf bowed. "Mistress Jindesfarne, we have great problems."
"Always great problems around. No." She slammed the door.
He stuck his foot in it and the door splintered. He smiled with naturally red teeth. "Now you need the brownies."
The brownies were looking hopeful, big brown eyes blinking at her, their thin lips turning black with cold.
Drifmar said, "You need the brownies and we need you. Let's talk."
"We will make it worth your while."
With just that sentence he ripped the scab she'd thought was a scar off the wound. Hot tears flooded her constricting throat. Her fingers trembled on the doorknob. "No. My familymy once happy, large familytalked with you fifteen years ago. Then we went on a mission to balance elemental energies while the royals opened a dimensional gate. My family died." All except her older brother, who blamed her for the fiasco, but not more than she blamed herself.
"They saved the Kings and Queens of the Lightfolk."
"I don't care. The Lightfolk did not save them." She didn't control her magic, let her eyes go to djinn blue-flame. The brownies whipped behind the dwarf.
She got a grip on herself. It was Friday night and the sidewalks had people coming and going. Besides, losing her cool with a chief negotiator of the Lightfolk was not smart. "Most of my family is dead in the service of the Lightfolk. I have no responsibility to the Lightfolk at all."
"Your parents taught you better." There was a hint of a scold in his voice.
Since Jenni felt like shrieking again she kept her lips shut on words, breathed through her nose a few times, then managed to say, "Go away. Never come back."
"You are the only one with the inherent magic to balance elements left."
Her gut clenched. The dwarf didn't have to remind her that her brother was crippled physically and magically. She remembered that every day and prayed for him.
She stared into Drifmar's pale silver slit-pupil eyes. He could have no power over her, her own eyes were sheened with tears. "I am well aware of that. Go away. Never come back and if I say it three it will be."
"Wait! We will make you a Princess of the Lightfolk, you will lack nothing for the rest of your life, your very long life. We need you for just a small job, and it's time sensitive so the mission would be for a short time, only two months."
Harsh laughter tore from her throat. "You can't make a half blood a princess. Against all your rules. A small job for a great problem? I don't believe you, and two months is eighty-four thousand, nine hundred and fifty-nine minutes more than I want to spend in Lightfolk company." She looked down her nose. "That left you with one minute. Time's up."
"You'll have power and status and money and love, whatever your heart desires."
"I desire to be left alone by the Lightfolk." She flicked her fingers. "Go away and that makes three!" She put her fury in it, hurled the magical geas at him, but drew on no magic around her. Not to use on such as he.
The brownies remained.
The male squealed, "What to do? What do we do now?"
Jenni stared at the pitiful couple. "You can come in for the night, I suppose, but just one."
They stepped on the stone hearth, then clapped their fingers over their rolled ears and ran back to the far side of the porch. The woman looked at her reproachfully. "You have a nasty-sound scare-mouse machine."
Jenni didn't like the sound, either, but she'd been able to ignore it.
The man appeared interested. "You have mice. They said we would have to suffer many cats. Why do you have mice?"
Jenni sighed. "I have one old, fat, toothless calico cat."
The brownie womanbrowniefembustled back, stared up at Jenni with determination. "Go turn off the scare-mouse sound machine."
Giving them a hard look, Jenni said, "You will guard this door and let no Lightfolk in."
"We promise." They bobbed their heads. "Please leave the door open for the warmth," whined the man.
Jenni muttered a swear word under her breatha human wordand tromped back to the kitchen. Sighing, she removed the sonic mouse repellers. In the summer she could live-trap the mice and relocate them, but in the winter and the bitter cold no. If her cat, Chinook, had caught them and eaten them, that was different, that was natural. But she had too many advantages over mice to destroy them. Stupidity.
By the time she reached the entryway, the brownies were in and the door propped shut.
Chinook, always curious, descended the stairs two paws at a time. When she got three steps from the bottom she saw the brownies and her fur rose, her tail bottled and she hissed.
The male hopped into her face, bared his fangs and hissed back.
Jenni went to Chinook and picked her up. "She's lived here for years, you're overnight guests. As long as you're here, you must treat Chinook with respect. She responds well to pampering."
Before she'd petted Chinook twice the brownie couple had zoomed to the kitchen. Jenni followed.
The browniefem looked around, nose in air. "You need us. I am called Hartha and this is Pred."
Pred grinned. "Mousies!" He disappeared into the crack between the stove and the counter.
"The cleaning team comes Monday, only three days from now," Jenni said. The house didn't look too bad to her.
Hartha was suddenly wearing an apron made from two of Jenni's dish towels. That had been in a drawer. "Go sit down and I'll make you some nice tea. You've had a shock." Another sniff. "We must have the house warmer, but we will do it with magic, lower your heating bill."
"We need the positions." The woman lit the gas oven without turning the knob. She met Jenni's eyes and her own were not pitiful but shrewd. "Those new shadleeches have nested in our home. We had to leave or they would drain our magic dry."
Brownies were mostly magic. But Jenni didn't want to hear their long, sad story.
Music filled the house, her computer was back on. She hoped she hadn't lost much work.
Chinook wriggled and Jenni set her down. The cat sat and stared at the brownie. The woman went straight to the dry food container and filled the cat's bowl. Chinook hummed in greedy pleasure.
Magic filled the atmosphere along with the lavender scent of home spells that Jenni recalled her mother using. She didn't want to think of her family or the brownies or the dwarf. She let Chinook crunch away and went back upstairs to work.
Soon she'd turned in the leprechaun story and was in the depths of email consultation with the game developers about its debut the second week of March, only six weeks away. The scent of sweet-herb tea wafted to her nose. More memories of her mother, her five siblings, whipped through her. The browniefem set the pretty patterned cup before Jenni, twisted her hands in her apron.
So Jenni picked up the tea and sipped. It was perfect. Just sweet enough. Naturally. Hartha would have sensed her preferences.
The brownieman, Pred, appeared in the doorway, grinning. "There is no more mouse problem."
Jenni let the brownies have the back storage room, messy with piled boxes, computer parts, cables, extra clothes, mailing materials, old software and broken appliances. She had a feeling it wouldn't be untidy in the morning.
* * *Grief and ghosts and guilt haunted her dreams.
She should have known that the arrival of the dwarf and the brownies would stir up the old trauma, but had worked that night until her vision had been fuzzed with static from looking at the screen. Then she'd fallen into bed and slept, only to watch the fight around the dimensional gate with the Darkfolk, and be too late again.
Her family had died in that fight fifteen years before. Jenni had been late to help her family magically balance energies as a portal to another dimension was opened. She'd been more interested in her new lover and loving. Hadn't been there when the surprise ambush had occurred. A fatal mistake she was unable to fix, so she had paid the price every day since.
She would never forgive herself for her mistake.
Neither would her elder brother, the only other survivor of her family.
She awoke weeping and curled into a ball, and knew from the soft and muffled quality of the air outside her windows that snow fell in huge, thick flakes. She felt the silent coming and going of the female brownie, Hartha, but kept her back to the woman until the smell of an omelette and hot chocolate made with milk and real liquid cocoa teased her nostrils. She rolled over to see her best china on a pretty tin tray along with a linen napkin and tableware.
As she ate, Chinook hopped onto the bed, onto her lap, and purred, accepting bits of ham and cheese from the omelette. The cat was her family now, old and scruffy as she was.
Only one old cat.
As she stared out the frosted window, she accepted that the Lightfolk would not leave her alone. They'd send others to negotiate. They'd send him. Her ex-lover.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Although Jenni is immune to their offers of acceptance, Jenni's brother, Rothly, is not. When he accepts their offer and is lost in the mists, Jenni is honor-bound to rescue him and to complete the mission he accepted on behalf of the family he no longer admits she is a member of. Together with Aric, she risks the dangers of the shadleeches and ultimately the assaults of the lords of the darkfolk--both to save Rothly and to ensure that the magic bubbles welling up from within the earth are used for good rather than evil.
Author Robin Owens pushes hard on Jenni's anger--ultimately making her less sympathetic than I would have hoped for. She's quick to forgive her brother, who hurt her more than anyone, while slow to forgive the man she loved (and hasn't truly stopped loving) or the elves who had no reason to anticipate danger to Jenni's family and who suffered grievous harm of their own in the attack. I also found Jenni too good at everything. A minute in the elf workshop and she's suggesting changes in the work environment that will make elf programmers more productive. Although she hasn't worked magic for years, she's able to control the powers of near-immortal darkfolk and the strongest of the lightfolk lords. Of course, Aric wants only her forgiveness and to be with her--although, as she was the one who cut him off, it should be her who looks for forgiveness rather than giving it.
I enjoyed Owens' magical world, her concepts of mixing human technology with fae magic, and ultimately the battle between light and dark as the third bubble emerges from the ocean. Not being able to like the protagonist, however, made this a hard story for me to love as much as I'd hoped.
And then we have our intrepid heroine, Jindesfarne Mistweaver - or 'Jenni' to save you a mouthful - and that's where things start to go downhill. Something bad happened fifteen years ago to drive her out to the mundane world and she refuses to be dragged back to work her family's special magic (balancing the elements/accessing an inter-dimension). This lasts a few brief pages until she finds out that the brother who disowned her, the only remaining family she has left, took on the assignment and is in trouble.
Now this probably isn't the biggest of spoilers since it's hinted at in the summary, but Jenni got in trouble with her brother so many years ago because when her family was called upon to do their special thing (which I still don't get, seems to me there's nothing special about their mixed blood but the book's good about glossing things over or things just appearing out of nowhere) because she and her lover, Aric, were too busy having sex when the ceremony got moved up and missed out on it when things went wrong. Uhm... this bugged me because seems to me for there to be much better 'distractions' out there (plotwise)and would indicate serious flightiness on both characters' parts, and with all the mental speech going on between characters in the book, why didn't one of Jenni's family just 'wake' her up to tell her about the change of schedule (*come on*, anyone who has a sibling out there can't tell me that one of them wouldn't relish the chance to interrupt, and if the ceremony was as important as Jenni built it up, why would they leave her out of it at the last minute?). The story is filled w/ niggling inconsistencies like this, as if the writer didn't think things through or just glosses stuff over for the sake of moving the plot along or dramatic effect for certain characters and so forth and then changes stuff the next page.
Jenni comes across as a good bit of a Mary Sue. She shows up, and all of a sudden things are better. Not to mention she starts off so very bitter and hurt and angtsy for the first few pages and... all that emotion just fizzles. She has every reason to be guilty and angry at Aric, and that doesn't last very long, does it? Even when he does something that by all means should cast him as a bit of a cad (but he doesn't seem to get any backlash for, since the other person involved is cast in such a negative light?). For someone hurt so badly and for whom 'time' moves so slowly, she forms bonds rather quickly, too. She points out how other characters can change so little because of this whole 'time' concept, but then a heck of a lot of changes occur over a relatively small period of time. I got the point where I would just have to say to myself 'stop trying to think too much with this book'.
But hey, if you're a Lord of the Rings fan, there's a Legolas and Gimli rip-off in the story for you. A shame they're some of the more interesting characters and don't even seem to rate any names. But we're told at the end that a character that's mentioned in one or two sentences will get a book of her own. Sadly, I'm not interested enough to bother reading any more of this 'Magic Circle'. I managed to finish this book, it kept me entertained during that time and was mostly a quick read, but that was it.
Jenni is a halfling, half human and half Lightfolk (fae). She wants nothing to do with her Lightfolk heritage after a magical disaster fifteen years ago in which most of her family was killed. Instead, she lives as a human in Denver and works as a game designer. She is drawn back into the Lightfolk world when her last remaining family member, her estranged brother, disappears while on a mission for the rulers. Jenni reluctantly accepts the mission so that she can rescue her brother. Now she has court politics to deal with, along with dangerous evil creatures and her ex-lover Aric Paramon. (The blurb calls him Tage, but I think that must be from an earlier draft.)
Jenni must overcome her guilt and grief over the tragedy in her past, and forgive herself and Aric for the things they could have done differently. Her brother has a similar arc, learning to move past his own self-pity and his bitterness toward Jenni. Readers who enjoy this type of character journey may find Enchanted No More hits the spot.
For me, it was a bumpy read. The trouble starts with Jenni. I had trouble warming to her. At the beginning of the book, she's immature, lashing out in anger at the most inopportune moments. She throws tantrums at royalty -- not generally a good idea, but her magical talents are rare enough that they put up with it. Later, as she deals with her past, she becomes more sympathetic but still has annoying traits such as a tendency to meddle. She prods Aric about his dad issues when they're supposed to be having a romantic evening, and dispenses career counseling to the other halflings at court. (In the latter case, it's not so much a problem that she *does* it, but the way they instantly feel motivated to better their lot after a brief conversation with Jenni--unrealistic IMHO.) Meanwhile, Aric never quite feels fleshed out.
The magic system and the scenes of magic use are often confusing to follow, while other aspects of the story are over-explained. The deaths of Jenni's family are rehashed so many times that -- especially after the Fire Queen tells her own version and offers to let Jenni read the other royals' accounts -- I was sure there would be a twist wherein the incident would turn out to have happened differently than Jenni remembered. This doesn't occur, however.
Finally, there are a huge number of comma splices. I hate to nitpick about grammar/editing, but when there are enough of these errors, it becomes distracting.
_Enchanted No More_ will be appealing to some readers but fell flat with me, I'm sad to say. I'd rather be reading October Daye.
Two of the four LightFolk royal couples jointly ruling her homeland then had wanted to move on to another dimension through an open portal, and Jenni's family had been responsible for keeping the elemental energies in balance to ensure the couples' safe passage. On the day the ritual was to have taken place, the schedule was suddenly moved up because of intelligence regarding DarkFolk attacks. Out of reach because she was with her lover, Aric Paramon, Jenni learned of the schedule change in an untimely manner. When she and Aric arrived to help, the DarkFolk attack was already in full force. Amidst the fighting and chaos, Jenni and her family found themselves unprotected, and although they succeeded in providing safe passage to the ruling couples moving on to the next dimension, their achievement came with a huge sacrifice: everyone in Jenni's family perished except for her and her older brother Rothly. Crippled and maimed magically, Rothly cut his ties to Jenni and Aric, blaming them for his parents' and siblings' demise. Unable to forgive herself, but also angry at Aric and the LightFolk rulers for leaving her family unprotected, Jenni left her magical homeland to live among humans in Mystic Circle, Denver, making a living as a successful game software developer.
Now 15 years later, the current LightFolk rulers have sent Aric to Jenni to persuade her to participate in a short-term mission where her unique ability is required. Remembering how halflings like her and her family have been treated shabbily in her magical homeland, Jenni at first refuses, but when she learns that her brother, who has agreed to help the royals, is trapped and in danger in the interdimension, she conditions her acceptance of the mission on the royals providing her help in tracking her brother's whereabouts so she can try to rescue him first.
But Jenni has not been exercising her magical abilities for a long time. Would she be able to "power up" her dormant ability in time to save her brother and complete her mission as well? Would the royals live up to their part of the bargain? Has Rothly forgiven her? What about her relationship with Aric? Has Aric found another lover? Does he still have feelings for Jenni? Does Jenni still have feelings for him? Why has he been doing the biddings of the royals? When a situation arises again where Aric has to choose between fighting for the royals versus fighting for Jenni, who would Aric choose and why? Would Aric ever find the spine to stand up against the royals? Do the current royals deserve Jenni's help? Is the mission Jenni accepted worth the risk to her life? Would Jenni complete her mission successfully with so much negative energy weighing her down?
Overall, I thought the novel has an interesting conceit, and interesting subplots (e.g., Aric's own family problems and his concern for his TreeFolk ilk; Jenni's powerful but evil rival for Aric's love; the current royals' motivations and plans for humans and those lower than the royals in the LightFolk caste system; the alluded transformative connection between technology and magic, etc.) as well. The Jenni and Aric characters are very well developed, and character development for most of the secondary characters was sufficient for the purposes they served.
One improvement that would have made a difference for me concerns the somewhat excessive rehashing of what happened to Jenni 15 years ago. Most of the time, especially in the first half of the novel, those frequent reminders did not include new details, and therefore, in my mind, did not serve to move the plot forward in an interesting manner. Cutting down the frequency of those reminders would have improved the pacing of the novel for me.
Fifteen years ago the original Eight had sent for the Mistweaver family to open a portal for them. At the last minute they move up the time table and Jennie was too late to save her family, Her brother Rothly is the only sibling to survive but his magic and himself are maimed.
The Eight send her ex-lover Aric Paramon to request her help (half Treefolk and half Elf). They are offering her a Princess title if she completes the task. She and Aric must travel to Yellowstone to intercept this bubble. She finds out that the Eight had previously asked her brother to go on this mission but they had lost contact with him. Jennie makes a deal with them that she will save her brother first and then go after the bubble. Since I don't want to give away the entire book I will just leave it at that...:)
I got so mad at Rothly because even after Jennie retrieves him from the inter-dimension he continues to treat her badly! I just wanted to strangle him!! This book had me bouncing between being mad at Rothly, sad about the loss of Jennie's entire family and her struggle to cope with it and cheering on Jennie and Aric's love. Great read!!