Series Review: Enchanted, Inc. books 1-2 by Shanna Swendson

Series Review: Enchanted, Inc. books 1-2 by Shanna SwendsonEnchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson
Series: Enchanted Inc. #1
Published by Ballantine on May 31, 2005
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Humor, Fairy Tales
Pages: 308
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads
three-half-stars

DON'T MESS WITH HEXES

Katie Chandler had always heard that New York is a weird and wonderful place, but this small-town Texas gal had no idea how weird until she moved there. Everywhere she goes, she sees something worth gawking at and Katie is afraid she's a little too normal to make a splash in the big city. Working for an ogre of a boss doesn't help.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, Katie gets a job offer from Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., a company that provides tricks of the trade to the magic community. For MSI, Katie's ordinariness is an asset.

Lacking any bit of magic, she can easily spot a fake spell, catch hidden clauses in competitor's contracts, and detect magically disguised intruders. Suddenly, average Katie is very special indeed.

She quickly learns that office politics are even more complicated when your new boss is a real ogre, and you have a crush on the sexy, shy, ultra powerful head of the R&D department, who is so busy fighting an evil competitor threatening to sell black magic on the street that he seems barely to notice Katie. Now it's up to Katie to pull off the impossible: save the world and--hopefully--live happily ever after.

Back in ye olden dayes when I was in high school and had trouble choosing books to read from the library (ROFLCOPTER—look at me now), my reliable go-to was chick lit from Red Dress Ink. I’d walk the aisles looking for the little red dress emblem on book spines. That’s how I found Enchanted, Inc. back in 2005 or 2006. I actually read these books as they came out, but I never managed to acquire copies for myself, and I never got around to the self-published ebook continuations. The time has come to revisit the series I’ve been recommending for years. While in some ways, it doesn’t hold up to memory, I still very much enjoy these and can’t begrudge the money I’m spending on the ebooks.

Swendson’s probably best known to YA readers for Rebel Mechanics, which also ended up switching to self-publishing when the series didn’t get picked up and which is super super good FYI. READ IT. This really isn’t pertinent to Enchanted, Inc. but I want more people reading that series because it’s awesome.

Enchanted, Inc. shows some age. There are a lot of little one-off, casual lines with slut-shaming or something that is no longer considered acceptable (like the g-word for a Romani person). The book on the whole doesn’t come across with strong messages against sex or anything like that, but it would likely be written and edited differently today. It’s actually pretty mild for a lot of chick lit from back then, but I still don’t love that.

However, setting that aside, the book does remain utterly charming. The world building is delightful, though the set-up takes a while in book one. Katie Chandler’s suffering under a nightmare boss when she gets a mysterious job offer, which, normally, she would ignore but desperate measures and all that. Turns out Katie has a special talent: she is zero percent magical. Despite crushing Katie’s dreams of Hogwarts, being immune to magic actually makes her very useful to a magical corporation, so now she can almost afford her New York City lifestyle. The magic is fun and whimsical, and I love the twist that Katie’s completely without magic (and, no, she’s not the only one with this talent). It’s pretty hilarious, too, that Katie’s main contribution is being knowledgable in how normal businesses and normal life works, rather than being majorly skilled or a genius. The twist on the frog princes is perfect too.

The characterization admittedly leaves a bit to be desired. Katie’s a bit too nice perhaps, though not quite insufferable. Her roommates have very little development, basically Gemma’s the Samantha and Marcia’s the Miranda. I’d perhaps like Rod more if he weren’t named Rod. Owen, of course, is FLAWLESS. I love blushy male love interests a lot, and I can’t not picture him as Hugh Dancy, which doesn’t hurt. I’m also quite fond of Mervyn. The office female friend group, however, also lacks development. So it’s a mixed bag here, but I’m grateful that Katie does have a lot of female friends.

As happens a lot with older books, I’d love to see what Swendson could have done with this idea if she wrote it today, but it’s still massively fun, and I stand by this recommendation for people who like humor, cute and clever fairy tale interpretations, and shippy goodness (though you’re going to need some patience—I’m impressed this got picked up for chick lit given how little sex there is in the series).

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Enchanted, Inc. books 1-2 by Shanna SwendsonOnce Upon Stilettos by Shanna Swendson
Series: Enchanted Inc. #2
Published by Ballantine on April 25, 2006
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Humor, Fairy Tales
Pages: 303
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Click your heels three times and say,
“There’s no place like Bloomies!”

Katie Chandler’s life is pure magic–literally. As an executive assistant at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., she’s seen more than her share of fantastical occurrences. A mere Manhattan mortal, Katie is no wizard, but she’s a wiz at exposing “hokum” pocus, cloaked lies, and deceptive enchantments. And she’s fallen under the all-too-human spell of attraction to Owen, a hunky wizard and coworker. Owen, however, is preoccupied. Someone has broken into his office and disrupted top-secret files, and it reeks of an inside job. CEO Merlin (yes, the Merlin) taps Katie and her special ability to uncover the magical mole.

Keeping her feelings in check while sleuthing alongside Owen, Katie is shocked to discover that her immunity to magic is waning, putting her in grave danger. Soon she’s surrendering to the charms and enchantments of everyone and everything around her, including a killer pair of red stilettos. Katie must now conjure up her natural instincts to get to the bottom of the break-in, regain her power, and win the wizard of her dreams.

The second book in the series runs a bit weaker but tbh I still devoured it, and I just love this world quite a lot, even if the cast still isn’t squad goals.

Plot-wise, I had some issues with this one. For example, the book opens with the red shoes, which clearly means they’re going to be important. Even if that wasn’t clear, they’re also on the cover and in the title. Then the red shoes go away for a really long time, which is completely fine, except that it didn’t really make sense to me why Katie went back for them; I feel like it would have made more sense for her to have been talked into buying the shoes at the beginning but then not wear them for a while. View Spoiler »

Katie’s dating Ethan, another immune and lawyer-on-retainer to the firm. Here again, I feel like some nice emotional beats were missed. Ethan ends up being the one to end their relationship, in a way that didn’t feel convincing for anyone, when it would have been so nice to see Katie really examine her own feelings, since she’d just been going with Ethan because he wanted her. The surprise ship of Ethan and View Spoiler » felt really random, especially since View Spoiler ».

That said, the book’s mighty fun. Katie’s losing her magical immunity, all while dealing with a visit from her parents. Her mom turns out to be immune as well, which results in endless hijinks as Katie tries to keep magic a secret. I like that Katie’s Texan parents, like Katie, largely avoid stereotypes. It’s most impressive that Katie really does come across as vital to this company, even without her powers. Also, the plot requires Katie and Owen (aka the best and cutest wizard cupcake ever) to fake date, so A+ to that.

Though it’s not the strongest installment in the series, I still really liked it. The cleverness of the set-up and the ship are the main selling points for sure.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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