Normally, even if I did not particularly care for a book, I try to give it a fair and balanced review, explaining good points as well as why I personally did not like it.
Sometimes, there is a book for which, in my opinion, this simply cannot be done. In this case, I usually flail and sputter and there is much exclaiming of ‘what the fuck?’ and often the desire to hit someone, usually the main character, as I read.
This was just such a book for me. So, welcome to my dissection of Enchantment, by Charlotte Abel (Book One of the series ‘Channie’) by way of WTF-ery. Here there be major spoilers, and they will be unmarked. Also here there be some bad language. It was unavoidable, I promise you.
This ranty review of WTF-ery is also very long. I apologise. This was also unavoidable. This is how long it was after I made myself leave out at least a third of the things I wanted to rant about.
Sixteen year old Channie Kerns leads an idyllic life of seclusion and magic deep in the Ozark Mountains … until her family is forced to flee for their lives.
They leave everything and everyone behind to start over in Louisville, Colorado. Magic is forbidden while they are in hiding, but Channie can’t resist the temptation to enchant a group of local boys. When her overbearing parents catch her flirting with these “sex-crazed, non-magical delinquents,” they slap a chastity spell on her to protect her virtue.
The spell is triggered by lust, so just navigating the halls at her new school is an ordeal. She can’t even touch a boy she’s attracted to without blasting him with a jolt of magical energy that feels like a taser.
When Channie falls in love with Josh Abrim, a BMX racer with dangerous secrets of his own, she rebels against her parents and turns to dark and forbidden magic to break the chastity spell … with disastrous results.
First of all, I do not know who would quantify Channie’s life as ‘idyllic’ but they need their head examined. Channie lives in the backwoods of the Ozarks, happily enough, it is true – except for the fact that she lives in a tense mess of her mother, her sister, her three nephews, and (when he is not running moonshine and gambling) her father.
Kicking us off, Channie comes home to find that her father has returned from a three-week stint away (this is a long one, by his standards) and is holding her mother in the kitchen. The most surprising thing about this to Channie is that he is hugging her, rather than trying to ‘squeeze the life out of her like a bull snake wrapped around a squirrel’. (Direct quote.)
Clearly, Channie’s life is truly idyllic. Cue my incredulous eyebrow. (Actually, just bring it back to stay, because I was already giving this book a funny look on page two. The expression will be sticking around, I assure you.)
At this point we’ve already been introduced to the heavy dialect that will hang around in Channie’s family’s dialogue, and also, in places, in the narrative. We’ve also seen ‘spells’ that are cast with no explanation, words, or gestures of any kind. Somehow the usage of these spells and what they are can be read by other magical characters without any outward sign of their being cast whatsoever.
These can range from a ‘bug-be-gone spell’ (which must apparently be directed at an individual bug) to ‘be-calm spells’ which ranged inexplicably from ‘don’t freak out at horrible news’ to making someone sleep, to ‘curses’ (more on these shortly) to ‘shields’ which are (I think) invisible, though they are instantly sensed by other mages.
All of the family members, but particularly Channie and her parents, use these spells amongst each other and on others to get their way or to lash out when they can’t.
Due to some . . . questionable circumstances, Channie’s father has come home on the run (‘Again?’ Channie says) – he got greedy and cast a weakening spell on the horse favoured to win a race he went to bet on after he sold all his moonshine and tripled his profits at poker.
He couldn’t resist casting a charm to weaken the favoured horse, even though the racetrack was owned and protected by mages – the horse died, along with its jockey, and Channie’s father lost all his money to boot.
Oh, and the Queen owned it. (No, this is never explained. The royalty thing? Occasionally mentioned, never sensibly. This could be poorly-done set-up for later.) There is also no explanation of why she’s so brassed off that her grandson (the jockey) is dead – as she apparently killed her entire family – parents, siblings, even her own son – to get/keep her throne.
So, they’re on the run from the royal clan? (Which we must assume contains . . . more than the Queen and her now-dead grandson?) Running because they can’t raise the money to pay the blood-debt, and so the Veyjiviks have decided to kill the entire family by slow torture and make Channie’s daddy watch. (Then, probably, kill him.)
We relocate, along with the Kerns family – soon to be renamed Belks – and about half their worldly possessions, in a gutted 1956 VW bus, to Louisville, Colorado. Where there are no mages, so they will be deep in an area only inhabited by Empties.
Empties are ‘MD’s – Magically Disabled Persons. People with no magical power, whether they are born into mage families or not.
Everyone is horrified to hear this facet of their relocation. Of course.
Almost as soon as they get there, Channie, sulking, goes out and is almost instantly swarmed by Empty boys her age, in part due to her magic, which is ‘seductive’, even when inactive.
Her parents decide the only way to keep Channie away from the Empty boys – or any boys at all – unlike her sister, is to change her ‘power-name’.
Let’s talk about power-names! They are actually the characters’ normal names, only they also influence their power and also, apparently, personality. (That latter is only occasionally shown for any character, and feels more like an excuse when it is.)
Channie’s real name is Enchantment, and her magic is seductive and slippery. Her sister’s name is Abundance (which her father blames for why she has triplets), and the triplets’ names are Savvy, Zeal, and Courage. Momma’s name is Prudence, and daddy’s name is Money. Channie’s aunt – who has taken Channie on as the ‘youngest master-healer’s apprentice in history’, who knows why – is Wisdom.
Dominance is the Queen. Also mentioned: Hunter and Lucky.
I really wish I was kidding about these, but I am really not. Money’s name is apparently why he makes a profit from his gambling activities so easily – and also why he keeps going greedily back and losing it.
So Channie’s parent’s ‘curse’ her, using a book they dug up from the family graveyard – the woman who wrote the book had her own daughter sacrifice her by carving out her heart and replacing it with the book. We don’t know why. No one seems to think this is worth pondering. (Although apparently eventually Channie’s mother will require her to do the same someday, because now the book expects it.)
They change the wording, replacing the name ‘Purity’ with ‘Chastity’ for Channie, which rips at Enchantment’s magic inside her, means that every time she casts magic the smell is the burnt onion of a curse (apparently all spells smell of the magic used; this is never mentioned otherwise) and sends a tiny sliver of Enchantment’s magic into hiding in Channie’s ‘heart-of-hearts’. (Not intentionally.)
Channie had never used or discovered this before, but apparently all mages have them, where their truest self lives. Channie’s happens to be inside her actual heart, which she says in such a way that we wonder if some people’s heart-of-hearts lives in, say, their spleen.
I’m curious about this. What kind of person’s truest self would live in their spleen? What if it lived inside a bit of you that was surgically removed? Thoughts.
Channie is understandably miserable, and Chastity’s first influence on her, as it is presented to us, is to sneak out that night and find some boys. (Wow, this is really working well, isn’t it?) She wants to get one to kiss her, to see what happens – note Channie has never been kissed before.
Finding an appropriate target group, Channie attempts using her new magic and casts a ‘come-hither spell’ (we find out later than this would have made any male personage kiss any female who cast it upon him) she accidentally zaps him instead, and he flees.
For some reason one of the other boys succumbs and kisses Channie. He is zapped with an involuntary blast from Chastity’s magic so strong that he later says he thought she had used a taser on him. Seriously?
This boy, of course, is Josh, who Channie falls in love with.
Lets pause and talk about curses in a little more detail!
Curses, or magic fuelled by a curse (this only sort of makes sense to me) like Channie’s own, after her renaming, always smell of burnt onions. They are often casually used by Channie’s family, including as a ‘reprimand’.
A stinging curse, for example, is used this way – as is a ‘keep quiet’ curse that not only silences speech but prevents the afflicted person from breathing and appears to verge upon causing heart attack or stroke.
Channie’s mother is particularly good at this one, and uses it on her husband in public. Once to keep him from explaining to an Empty couple (Josh’s parents) about switching his kids. And that it isn’t ‘beating’ them, so it is fine.
A ‘moon curse’ that makes me twitch in all kinds of ways – Channie first uses this to get a crowd of girls to stop flirting with her boyfriend (due to her curse, Channie cannot touch him, and trying to circumvent that, she made a magical mishap making Josh like catnip to all females).
The curse triggers a girl’s period, immediately, and possibly very harshly, depending on the power put into it, we find out.
. . .let’s leave aside that the female body does not work that way – magic couldn’t trigger heavy menstrual bleeding from a girl at any-and-every point in her cycle.
Channie begins to use it regularly. To shoo besotted and enchanted (haha) girls away from her boyfriend. (Upon whom she uses a stinging curse as a scold when he speaks too long to another girl in the school corridors.)
Channie also begins to use it on herself, all the time. To keep her own ‘lust’ under control. (Heaven forfend she depend on, say, self control to keep from kissing and/or groping her boyfriend, right?) This, by the way, was the point at which I – and the friends I was rambling (ranting) to about this book – went ‘excuse me, miss author, are you aware of what hormones are and how they work?’
Channie eventually develops a curse to lay on Josh every morning that will make any girl who even remotely admires him break out in hives and vicious itching.
Moving on through Josh giving Channie a ring, and proving himself ridiculously exceptional at BMX racing (the best, by far, in his age group, in the country), more attempts at circumventing Chastity’s magic, and the stupid, stupid development of breaking through Prudence’s protections to steal and use the evil book that the curse Channie’s parents used came from. . .
Leaving unexplored the time Channie was angry at her father – who was about to hit her, trying to forbid her from something yet again – and lashed out with her magic so hard he nearly had a heart attack after she threw him against the wall. . .
Ignoring the fact that Channie nearly abandoned the triplets she was watching over the weekend – regularly, at this point – to get out of her family’s house, and wound up staying with Josh and his family (Josh was really rather irritating in the section, but I suppose it was fairly explicable for a teenage boy who found his girlfriend suddenly living in his house). . .
Channie follows Josh to a meet-up he had made with another girl – the girlfriend of his best friend, who really doesn’t like Channie (I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t like Channie, can you?) – at a park.
The girl begins to cry after a bit of talking Channie can’t hear properly, and Josh – being a pretty nice guy in general, this is not surprising – hugs her.
Channie gets so very angry that she casts a moon curse on the girl with nearly all of Chastity’s power. So strong that Channie actually has the thought that using a tenth that amount of power would have been dangerous for the girl.
Who, as it turns out? Is Josh’s cousin. And she was so upset, and needed to talk to him, because she is pregnant with his best friend’s baby.
Channie realises and tries to heal the damage as much as she can while Josh calls for help – and has the fleeting bit of pride in herself as possibly being able to be a master-healer even without training, which seems very misplaced – then leaves.
We don’t know whether the girl miscarried or not, and Channie seems to leave the incident behind her fairly quickly – within a day. She does not, however, leave behind the rest of that day’s happenings.
She writes a note telling Josh she will let him be with the other girl, because obviously since she won’t (and can’t) have sex with him, she isn’t enough, and leaves him the promise ring he gave her.
With his baby brother. Telling the boy not to give Josh the note for a couple of days, while Channie – Channie heads back home! You know, where there are people who want to torture and kill her entire family?
Plus, lone girl hitchhiking, always ends well.
Of course she is picked up by someone awful, just outside her hometown – a hunter for the Veyjiviks – who drugs her, then announces his plan to rape her and leave her dead in the woods. But hey, that’ll be better than the slow death she’ll suffer at the hands of the Veyjiviks.
I’m not terrifically impressed with his kindness. Nor is Channie, who suffers an out-of-body experience for a while until . . . somehow (no idea or explanation how) she gets past the drugs she was given and uses magic, after he’s nearly beaten her to death trying to wake her up.
Incapacitating him is not enough, though – it is Channie’s ‘duty’ as a mage to kill him. Which she does, slowly and painfully (sloppily) and killing the little bit of Enchantment’s magic hiding in her heart-of-hearts in the process.
So now Channie has his gun and is left with a dead body and a dead car (her thoughts exactly) and it isn’t getting her any closer to Aunt Wisdom. She is furious – more than she was at being drugged, beaten, and nearly raped – to find that she’s been brought back to Oklahoma.
She turns on her cell phone and checks messages – Josh has left her a lot of them, crying, begging her to come back, telling her she’s a bitch, explaining that the girl was his cousin, begging her to call him, please.
Channie finally does, and as luck would have it he is nearby for a BMX race, which he leaves to pick Channie up. They kiss – a ‘perfect, lust-free, curse-breaking, fairy-tale-kiss of true love’ – and somehow hear something from the cursed book.
They can still break Channie’s curse. (So says the cursed book, and you should always trust those, right?) But she will have no magic if that happens, since Enchantment’s magic is dead, and Chastity’s comes from the curse.
I don’t understand why this is irreparable. The curse was not designed to rip away magic forever, but Enchantment’s magic should have been gone from the start. There should be a way to give Channie her magic back again, going by what we know.
She chooses to try to be with Josh and (eventually) they break the curse – even though she is still sure the book’s curse that she will have to marry a royal mage will bind her somehow.
Channie offers to have sex with Josh, who, after being pushy about it for most of the book, turns her down, and they sleep together chastely before going looking for Channie’s aunt.
They wind up going to Channie’s house – after Josh takes the gun from Channie, and inexplicably knows all about guns and this model – and find Hunter, the mage boy Channie was flirting heavily with at the beginning of the book.
As it turns out, when Money could not be found, war was declared on all the mages in the area – Hunter is hiding out because he said he wanted to turn spy for his mother’s family who are hunting Channie’s family down. (Lack of sense: if he is supposedly helping them, why hide from them?)
So Hunter is a royal mage.
So the plan is for Channie and Hunter to get married, and Channie will stay with Josh on the side. Hunter says he never planned to be faithful to his wife anyway, so whatever – oh, but this is a mage marriage, Hunter points out to Josh; not only will they have to have sex to complete the marriage, but they will have to keep having sex, at least once a month, probably once a week, since Channie has no power any more.
Aunt Wisdom shows up while Josh is understandably having a bit of a fit, and knocks him out magically. Explanations follow after Aunt Wisdom has a lie-down.
Two days later, preparing for Channie and Hunter’s wedding, Hunter sees the cursed book, which now has another name on it, replacing Enchantment – Joshua Veyjivik.
Josh is a royal mage.
Um. What? (Adoption, foreshadowing, much wtf-ery.)
There’s a prophecy, a war is coming – Dominance will totally forget about Channie’s family to hunt down and kill Josh if she realises she has an heir – and hey, they have a wedding to plan!
So Josh needs a power-name before he can marry Channie – there’s a good deal of debate, which is . . . rather eye-roll inducing, but they finally settle on Valor. Then his power explodes – almost literally. Everyone is sent flying, including Channie, who wakes up with a severe concussion, even after Aunt Wisdom heals her.
As soon as Channie regains consciousness, the wedding is on – although Channie cannot get out of bed. They need to be married under this particular, very powerful, moon – a partial eclipse on the winter solstice – and they will also need to consummate the marriage before it is complete. Before the moon sets.
While Channie has a catastrophic concussion. Now, I’ve been concussed, more than once, each less serious than Channie’s here. I just- No. That’s all my brain came up with. No and how.
So off they go – Josh is told Wisdom was responsible for the concussion, so he doesn’t feel badly – Josh scooping Channie up and carrying her outside (which I would not have previously thought he could do so easily) to fine her own bed outside under a bower of magical flowers.
This is winter solstice, by the way. Not that there has been a lot of – read: any – talk about the weather, even when Channie was hitchhiking and walking less than a week ago.
They commence with the wedding, in bed, with some magical weirdnesses – and Channie having to take a break to cry when Wisdom reminds her that her magic is nonexistent any more, so it doesn’t matter what name she vows by – and then Wisdom instructs them that they know what to do, and she is leaving for the night.
(Josh actually protests that he doesn’t have a condom, and is informed that even if he did, they couldn’t use it tonight. And anyway, Channie is unlikely to be able to conceive for the next five years, after so many moon curses.)
(Channie also thinks, when Wisdom says that she will deal with any ‘complications’ from tonight, that she would never let anyone harm Josh’s baby, even if it meant asking her parents for help. Now, whatever your views on this . . . er, I say to thee once more, wtf? Your parents, Channie? After everything they’ve done to you?)
After a few moments of awkwardness ending in under-the-covers cuddling, the sex is, of course, perfect – despite the fact that they are outside in December in Arkansas, in a twin bed, both utterly inexperienced, stressed, and one of them is suffering from a concussion severe enough she should be at the hospital being checked over.
Then the novel is ‘wrapped up’ in three paragraphs on the last page. In summary:
Channie loves Josh more than anything. Magic surrounds them. They have a lot to do – top priority, train Josh as a mage, preparing for the war. Abby is still in Mexico and may never be seen again. Josh’s dreams of being an Olympic Athlete are put on indefinite hold if not destroyed.
They love each other so much none of this matters. Of course.
This concludes our first visit with Channie.
Yes, this was book one of a series. Yes, I also have book two. Yes, even after all this, I plan to read it as well. I have been informed by a friend who heard my reactions as I read this one that I am allowed to do so as long as I write a review/post about them both. You can thank Michelle for this post. She knew what she was getting into.