Once Upon Stilettos
Once Upon Stilettos is the sequel to Enchanted, Inc., and both books are Alternate Reality/Chick Lit hybrids. Katie Chandler works for a company called Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., but her roommates and parents know it only as MSI. Like most of the population, they are blissfully unaware of the magic going on around them. This makes for an interesting premise, but while I found the book imaginative, I also found it somewhat disjointed and confusing.
This book apparently picks up right where the first one left off. I hadn’t read the first one, which was probably a mistake. Anyway, Katie’s company is currently headed by Merlin (the Merlin), and Katie is his assistant. The main skill she brings to the job is magical immunity. She isn’t able to do magic, but unlike many of her wizard colleagues, she can’t be fooled by it either. While even powerful witches and wizards are taken in by illusions, Katie sees everything as it really is. Ever since joining the company, Katie has had a crush on Owen, a wizard who works in the company’s R&D department. Owen is devastatingly handsome, and Katie is pretty sure he sees her only as a friend, even though they travel to work together every day. At the beginning of the book, Katie is dating Ethan, a fellow immune who recently started working for the company too. She also finds out that her parents are planning to visit her in New York for the Thanksgiving holiday, which is sure to present some challenges; they are completely unaware of the magical world, and have no idea what Katie’s job entails. On top of all this, it seems there is a spy working in MSI. Merlin thinks Katie is the perfect person to catch the conspirator, so he sends her to investigate.
That’s basically the plot, in a nutshell. To recap:
- Katie likes Owen, but isn’t sure he likes her back.
- Katie dates Ethan because she can’t have Owen.
- Katie’s parents are coming.
- There is a spy in the company.
There’s more (Katie has an enchanted pair of shoes that makes her irresistible to the opposite sex, Katie has some friend issues, Katie gets dumped by the guy she didn’t really like in the first place), but it’s more or less window dressing. Mostly it’s just the aforementioned stuff going on simultaneously, while Katie runs around trying to handle it all.
That’s not to say that this is a bad book. It’s entertaining, for the most part. I liked the concept behind it, and thought Katie’s company was fun. I also liked Katie well enough, and I really liked Owen (especially when I figured out for sure that he was supposed to be the hero).
But there are a couple of problems that make the book simply average, first among them a lack of focus. Katie’s attention is more or less equally consumed by the four issues enumerated above, and it doesn’t quite work. Katie comes across as scattered, and the plot does too. Had one particular theme been more important than the others, the book would have worked much better. Since I liked Owen and found his part of the story the most interesting, I often found myself wishing the author would just spend some time on him and let the other issues hover in the background a little. Unfortunately, the general lack of focus made it hard for me to focus on the book itself. Even though it wasn’t that bad, I found it vyer easy to put down.
Then there is the confusion factor. Certainly some of the confusion will be alleviated for readers who’ve read the first book. It’s obvious that a lot happened there, and characters make frequent references to it without quite explaining everything. There are a lot of characters, and all of them seem to have a backstory. It took some time for me to really tell them apart, and even at the end it was a little iffy.
If you read and enjoyed the previous book, you may find that this works much better for you – particularly if you liked Owen and want to see him get together with Katie. If you haven’t read the first book, you may be intrigued by the magical chick lit concept. If so, I’d read Enchanted Inc. first. Though I liked the imagination behind it, I just can’t recommend Once Upon Stilettos as a stand-alone read.