Time travel. Like Captain Janeway, I hate it. I mean, I love stories about it (hello, I watch Doctor Who every Sunday with one of my besties). But the kinds of paradoxes in The Future Falls are not exactly my cup of tea. If you can look past that, this is another fun fantasy novel that benefits from being mostly set in Calgary, and you don’t see enough of those! If you liked the first two Gale novels, then this one is a nice conclusion to the trilogy.
Trigger warning here, as with the previous books, for incest.
Charlie features prominently in this book, as does her fellow Wild Power Jack. Kind of picking up where The Wild Ways left off, this book explores Charlie and Jack’s relationship and “forbidden love.” Meanwhile, an asteroid is on a collision course for Earth. When Aunt Catherine Sees the threat, she alerts Charlie in the hopes that she or the other Gales can avert this catastrophe. So this is very much an existential crisis, and at first there is no obvious solution. The Gales’ powers have always been good for smaller things: charms, influencing the weather or people’s decisions, etc. Moving or destroying an entire asteroid? Tall order.
There are a few distinct things that make The Future Falls compelling. First, as always, is the way Tanya Huff weaves her magic through this urban fantasy setting. Since Charlie is once again the protagonist, magic and music intertwine, with frequent allusions to songs I am not cool enough to recognize. For Charlie and the other Gale women, magic is something you do even if it isn’t something you are, as in the case of Jack. So there’s this easy effortlessness with which Charlie slides into the Wood and visits Ontario or Vermont, for example, that makes the narrative compelling.
Next we have the relationship between Charlie and Jack. It’s very much a star-crossed lovers situation: both Charlie and Jack feel a connection, but because their age difference is greater than seven years, the Gale family bylaws prohibit them from ever really being a thing. I guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for them, but it’s difficult for me to get behind a 30-year-old and a 17-year-old, especially when they are cousins. Huff seems determined to transgress certain boundaries in the romance/sexuality department, and I’m not always here for it. Nevertheless, it’s still the case that this is an interesting subplot and a thorny issue. In fact, I think what I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t pulled in so much by Charlie/Jack as I was by the family dynamics around them. Allie’s obsession with keeping Charlie at home, the interplay with Graham and the aunties, etc. … Huff writes family dynamics well, even if they can be too incestuous for my tastes.
Finally we have the actual plot. Huff establishes, fairly quickly, the stakes. I like that we don’t spend too much time away from the Gales in the back offices of JPL; this is not a book about JPL. Rather, most of the book comprises Charlie investigating the problem, trying to understand it, and then considering a solution. There’s also a question of jurisdiction—she debates who to involve, starting only with Jack because he is also Wild and then gradually widening the circle of trust within the family as they realize they can’t sort this by themselves.
The ending is … ok, I guess. As I said above, time travel can be annoying sometimes. I like what Charlie did, and I guess it puts a nice bow on the whole Gale family story. However, the way Huff presents it feels rushed and doesn’t come with as much exposition as I would have liked. We don’t get to sit with these revelations, don’t get to hear Allie’s reaction for example to the story that Charlie must have told. So in that respect I was disappointed.
Overall, The Future Falls is another great entry in this series. I would read more Gale books. I like that Huff writes fantasy set in Canada and featuring compelling female magic-users. Still not on board with the incest or the low-key gender essentialism going on here, as I’ve discussed in previous reviews.