Teeming fantasy trappings largely substitute for internal logic in this meandering tale of a pop-up shop extraordinaire.
Finley McPhee narrates his temporary transformation from a lazy lad in the sleepy Scottish village of Applecross to a modern incarnation of the Irish hero Cuchalainn. Finley’s world begins morphing with the arrival of lovely Aiby Lily and her father. Finley, atoning for truancy by delivering mail for Applecross’ injured postman, discovers the Lilys while carrying a mysterious letter to their not-there-before red house. It’s the magical father and daughter’s turn to open the Enchanted Emporium, which trades in magical objects, powders, potions and spells. (Finley’s witnessing plenty of examples: Aiby uses a Fix-It Spider to repair his broken bike; Aiby’s father travels through the village via Self-Propelling Pants.) Old rivalries unleash evildoers bent on destroying the Emporium, including a mysteriously macabre “Dutchman” and a giant literally unearthed from the ruins of the Lilys’ ancestral castle. Besides Finley, the mythic battle’s unlikely heroes include his annoying brother, Doug, and Meb the dressmaker. A triumphant grand opening draws a thousand international visitors. When the festivities, fireworks and commerce conclude, Meb and Finley each receive a key to the Emporium, their roles in future adventures all but ensured.
Bruno’s elegant, steampunk-ish illustrations elevate the story, but its slow start and overreliance on dei ex machina flaw it. (Fantasy. 9-12)