Enchanted, Inc.
by Shanna Swendson
(Ballantine, 12.95, G) ISBN 0-345-48125-9
****
Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted, Inc. should be listed in the dictionary under the heading “brain candy.” It’s pleasurable and delicious, has a high entertainment value, and disappears quickly.

The heroine of the story is Katie Chandler, a small town Texan transplanted to Manhattan. She’s working a crappy job, sharing a one-bedroom apartment with three other friends and barely making ends meet. She feels unsophisticated and ordinary, and finds herself staring at odd people and things that native New Yorkers ignore. She wants to meet a stranger’s eye and share an “only in New York” look and a shrug, but she seems to be the only one to notice a lot of the things she finds weird. Katie assumes that once she is cosmopolitan enough to ignore the things that other New Yorkers ignore, she’ll finally feel as if she truly belongs.

Katie’s adventures begin with an atypical morning commute to work. As she enters the subway she encounters a woman with wings who seems to float above the ground, an un-pretty man that all the other women seem to find fascinating, and a short-but-cute guy that seems to call a subway train with a flick of his wrist. These three odd people keep watching her, gauging her reaction to the strange things she sees, and then meeting one another’s eyes. Katie fears she’ll be accosted later as the result of some plot, but gets to work without further incident. When she gets there she has a job offer in her email inbox from a company called MSI Inc.

At first skeptical, Katie sets ups an interview with MSI Inc. after a particularly bad day at her current job. What Katie learns during the interview is that the oddball things (women with wings, men with elf ears, gargoyles that move) that Katie finds fascinating are ignored by others because Katie is one of the very few people who can actually see them. Katie is an “immune,” one of the rare few that have absolutely no magic in them and are thus completely unaffected by magic. She can see right through the concealing spells that keep the average person from noticing the gargoyles and winged people. In fact, the strange morning commute was actually a test given by MSI personnel to make sure Katie was definitely immune to magic. Because of her rarity and unusual ability, Katie would be a valuable employee to MSI Inc., a company that markets magical spells. Katie is intrigued enough to quit her job and accept a new position with MSI.

Katie’s new position is in the “verification” department of Magic, Spells and Illusions, Inc. As verifiers, Katie and her “immune” co-workers make sure there are no magically hidden clauses in contracts, ensure that products are delivered as promised and not altered by spells, and do any other job that requires reality. Katie’s previous work experience and down home common sense make her a rising star at her new job, and she fits easily into the magical workplace. Within a month Katie is administrative assistant to the head of the company, in charge of marketing, and is sitting in on planning sessions with department heads in an attempt to find a way to deal with dangerous industrial espionage. Katie’s normality helps to save the day.

Enchanted, Inc. is a very smooth read. I sat down with it and was done within two hours. The pacing is fast and Ms. Swendson keeps the reader entertained during the entire book.

Some parts of the book are very funny. Particularly amusing is the scene where Katie accidentally catches an intruder in her place of work. The would-be thief is creeping down the hall with papers under his shirt, flattening himself against the wall and peering around furtively. It takes Katie a moment to realize the intruder thinks she can’t see him due to an invisibility spell. The visual of how that would appear in real life is hilarious.

One minor complaint about this book is the lack of a real love interest for Katie. The man she’s most interested in is Owen Palmer, the short-but-cute guy from the subway. He’s a co-worker at MSI, using his extremely powerful magical talents to develop new products. But he blushes every time Katie talks to him and refuses to meet her eyes. The whole time Katie was thinking about how cute Owen is and how much she’s attracted to him, I was thinking about the fact that Owen is short. The short-but-cute thing is disappointing, powerful wizard or not.

If you’re looking for profundities, or carefully researched histories, or a heavily emotional story that makes you weep, skip Enchanted, Inc. But if you want a few hours of casual, breezy entertainment, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.

--Wendy Livingston


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