Kathleen Nance’s previous book in this series, More Than Magic, got B grades from AAR reviewers Marianne and Katarina – no softies. They were both initially skeptical, but both were won over by the book’s charm. While I enjoyed parts of the follow up, Enchantment, there’s nothing here to charm me.
Leila is a djinni – known to us as a genie – which means she is a magical denizen of the alternate world called Kaf. As this book opens, Leila has come to our world to use her magic and her considerable beauty to seduce a scientist named Jack Montgomery. Unfortunately for her, this isn’t Jack’s first brush with ma-at (the djinni word for magic). Terrified that the force might be used against him, he has created an electronic amulet that somehow negates ma-at. Leila’s spell and Jack’s device collide, and Leila’s ma-at is stripped from her, even as the two are transported into the wilds of Kaf.
They start out as enemies. Jack is furious that she attempted to enspell him; Leila is devastated that he stole her magic from her. But they’re in a dangerous wilderness, and must join forces to get to safety. Along the way, they must deal with their mutual attraction, with the dangerous magical landscape, and with a powerful, determined enemy.
I rather liked Leila. She seems to be the fantasy version of a pampered princess, but she’s also a woman with very weak ma-at, which in her world earns her contempt and unthinking discrimination. She has learned to use her beauty and charm to cover her insecurity. I also like the fact that she views sex guiltlessly as a natural and beautiful thing. However, her prime motivation bothered me. She longs for a child, and thinks her chances are best if she mates with a human. She picks Jack to be the father before she even meets him: she hears that he’s intelligent, and she likes his looks. That seemed like a capricious and immature way of going about it.
I thought I was going to like Jack, because I like scientist heroes. But I found the portrayal of Jack to be totally at odds with the scientists I’ve known (my father is one), not to mention insulting to the discipline as a whole. Jack is a man who turns to science not out of curiosity and a desire to understand, but due to fear and a need to protect himself from random events. His reaction to discovering irrefutable proof that magic works is not to research it, but to build a device to kill it so that it can’t harm him. If I’m willing to suspend disbelief about magic, I’m left with a hero who is totally unethical and rather craven. Jack’s unyielding prejudice against ma-at made him a tiresome companion, as did his lust-think about Leila. Because I didn’t like or understand him, his frequently-described attraction to Leila left me cold.
The book is also rather boring for the first hundred or so pages. Help, I thought; I’m trapped on a voyage through the desert with two people who won’t talk to each other! I was quite surprised when, later in the book, I discovered that this section only covers a few days; it felt much longer to me, and in fact took me much longer to read. Things do pick up a bit down the road, when we finally meet the villain who wants to control Jack’s cunning device.
I found Enchantment a bit disappointing. I liked the heroine, the world the author has set up is interesting, and there’s lots of potential that might be used in future books. But the charm is missing, and what’s left is a romance that’s occasionally amusing but not at all memorable.