NOTE: Jack of Kinrowan is a combined re-release of Jack, the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon.
Newford: Dreams Underfoot (1993), Into the Green (1993), Memory & Dream (1994), The Ivory and the Horn (1995), Moonlight & Vines (1999), Tapping the Dream Tree (2002), The Onion Girl (2002), Waifs and Strays (2002), Spirits in the Wires (2003), Widdershins (2006), Promises to Keep (2007), Muse and Reverie (2009)
Short Stories: Companions to the Moon (2007)
Anthologies: Snow White, Blood Red (1993), The Essential Bordertown (1998), Year's Best Fantasy (2001), The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002), The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (2004), Faerie Tales (2004), Emerald Magic (2004), Maiden, Matron, Crone (2005), Firebirds Rising (2006), The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007), Vampires: The Recent Undead (2010), The Very Best of Charles de Lint (2010), Happily Ever After (2011), Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012)
Kids Books: A Circle of Cats (2003)
As far as I am concerned, Charles de Lint is the master of urban fantasy; he combines modern cityscapes with elements of folk and fairy tales. His novels and short story anthologies are set in Newford, which may or may not be Canada. The characters do recur from book to book, and you can start at any point, but there is some character development from book to book, so it may be more satisfying to read from the older books to the news ones.
Wolf Moon (1988)
Wolf Moon is one of Charles de Lint's earlier books. It's quite short--only 245 pages. In tone, it reminds me very much of The Harp of the Grey Rose. A fantasy world that similar to, but not quite the same as, ours.
Kern is a werewolf. Accepted by neither humans or wolves, and afraid of being slain by any humans who discover what he is, he has come to accept his fate, until he is hunted by a magical harper, and nearly slain by the harper's mythical beast.
Oddly enough, it is neither Kern not Ainsey I like the best by the end of the tale, but Fion. When she acts, she does so out of loyalty and love. Self-preservation seems to take second place to helping those she loves. And considering that she initially comes across as someone self-absorbed and interested only in pleasure, this discovery of her depths was all the more enjoyable.
But I have to admit that as much as I love Charles de Lint's urban fantasy, I may like his traditional fantasy, but I simply do not find it anywhere near as compelling. The characters don't seem quite as real as the inhabitants of Newford, although I couldn't possibly tell you why this is so.
If you like Charles de Lint, then you will almost certainly want to read Wolf Moon, especially if you liked The Harp and of Grey Rose. If you have not read any of Charles de Lints books before, I would recommend that you start somewhere else, because although I enjoyed this story, I didn't find it anywhere near as good as his other works, especially his short story collections. It may also be that I have very high expectations for Charles de Lint's writing, and although this is a good story, I don't think it is anywhere close to as good as any of his Newford books and collections.
The Dreaming Place (1990)
The protagonists are high school girls, and the peripheral characters are his typical assortment of people with whom most of us don't normally associate i.e. street people and shaman (is that plural and singular) and mystics, which is okay, because I don't want to read books about the people with whom I normally associate. That's be fiction, not fantasy (and probably painfully boring at that.)
I like what he did with his characters, and I loved the story, although I wonder if this might have been better had it been a long story in a collection instead of a short book. (I realize there is barely a difference there, but this book (earlier than other books and collections I have) seemed somehow a little different from his other stories I have read, though I don't think I can place my finger on it.
So I think in sum this is a good book, and if you are a fan of Charles de Lint this should be added to your collection, but if you are looking for a first book by him, I'm not sure this is it.
The Little Country (1991)
While musing over a broken relationship that may lead to a broken tour of American, Janey searches the attic and finds a book by her favorite author--an author who was good friends with her grandfather--and discovers there was only a single copy of the book printed, and that her grandfather was requested to hide the book and keep it safe. From there we read not only Janey's story, but the story in the book she has discovered in her grandfather's attic.
Yesterday I must have picked up half a dozen book, read the first couple of paragraphs, and then put them back down with the thought, "this isn't what I'm in the mood for."
So I picked up The Little Country, because it was by Charles de Lint, so how could I go wrong?
Unfortunately, after reading the last page, I put the book down thinking, "well, that wasn't what I was in the mood for either."
I just could not get into this book. Probably the best way to describe it is that it was just entirely too long.
One problem was that point of view skipped around too much--and by this I don't mean between the two stories. I liked the idea of a book within a book. But in the "main" story, the point of view kept shifting from Janey to everyone around her, be they good guys or bad guys or not so sure where they stand guys. So I never felt like I developed a relationship with the characters, either through their own thoughts and feelings, or through how Janey felt about them.
Another thing is that there was just entirely too much detail that simply struck me as unimportant. Like I said, the book just felt like it went on far longer than it needed to, and I might have liked it better had it been far shorter.
In general, the whole thing just felt off to me.
So, if you have not read Charles de Lint before, I do not recommend starting here. There are plenty of other excellent books and short story collections available--leave this one for after you've read everything else.
Jack of Kinrowan (1995)
In Jack the Giant Killer, the Seelie Laird of Kinrowan's daughter has been stolen by the Unseelie Court, despite the fact that she was being escorted by the Gruagagh. And the Unseelie Court also has the Horn that controls the Hunt, so the Gruagagh--even if he were still trusted by the Laird's court--is trapped in his tower and unable to help, while no one else has the power to help. Except, maybe, a Jack.
I really like Jacky and Kate. I can understand Jacky's coming undone when her boyfriend walks out on her, and I really like how Kate sticks with her, even when she's not so sure that Jacky hasn't gone over the edge.
I also particularly liked the Hunt as they appeared in Jack the Giant Killer, as well as the way that Jacky deals with them. Maybe because for me it has echoes of Good Omens.
In Drink Down the Moon, Johnny Faw, after the death of his grandfather, goes out Vincent Massey Park to play "The King of the Fairies," which his grandfather made him promise to do. There he meets the Pook of Puxill, although he doesn't know who she is at the time. While the Pook has her own problems, because someone has been stealing the luck of the rade. For something is happening to the fiaina.
This book is very different from his short stories. Although the idea remains the same--that faerie is real, and coexists alongside our world--much of the story actually takes place in faerie, and the characters wander in and out of faerie at need and will. So there is a very different feel than in his short stories and books that take place in Newford, where the focus tends to be far more on the "real world" and "regular" people. Additionally, faerie characters are far more common in this book--pooks and hobs and boggles and trows.
As with all of Charles de Lint's books, the writing and storytelling are excellent. The second book seem a little different from the first book. Perhaps in pacing, perhaps because the focus of the second story is split between Jacky & Kate and Johnny and Henk. On the down side Henk seems a little flat to me, but it may have been that I wanted to get back about Jacky and Kate. And as always, there is a lot of music, with musicians and songs appearing throughout.
I must admit that love the cover of this book, despite the fact that there is no reason at all for the woman to be holding a sword. (I don't think there are any swords in this book.) But it's so gorgeous I just don't care. I'm not sure what it is that I like so much about Thomas Canty's fantasy covers, but I've seen very few that I haven't adored.
If you have not read Charles de Lint, this is an excellent first book to read, although you need to be aware that this is quite different from his short story collections. Just as good, but in a somehow different way. But underlying both is Charles de Lint's always excellent storytelling.
The Blue Girl (2004)
I love Charles de Lint. There is nothing he has written that I have read that I have not liked, and most of what he writes I absolutely love. Yet for some reason I was hesitant to read this book. Probably because the main characters are high school students. As usual, as soon as I started the book I wondered what I had been worried about, because as always, Charles de Lint has written an excellent book.
Imogene's family has moved to Newford, and she decides to take advantage of the move to a place where no one knows her, to change herself, and to stay out of trouble. On the first day of school she makes friends with Maxine, a girl outcast from her peers for being smart, and that friendship immediately puts her on the outs with the popular kids.
And she meets Ghost. A boy who died at school under mysterious circumstances--was it murder or suicide or accident.
As always, Charles de Lint does an excellent job of showing the internal lives of his teenage characters, which moves them from the annoying, angst-ridden creatures that other authors create, to people that I can remember being as a teen.
The bullying was pretty rough in this book, and brought back some unpleasant memories, although it made me realize how lucky I was that the bullying I dealt with as a teenager was never physical. (Although I hardly felt luck at the time.)
But the bullying is not the focus of the story, just a bit that added to the realism of his description of high school. The focus is instead on the fact that Newford, is closer to faerie than other places in the real world. Several of the characters who lives in Newford are mentioned, and some make brief appearances, but for the most part the book is about Imogene and Maxine and Ghost.
I really like Imogene. She's smart and resourceful, but Charles de Lint also shows that whatever the image she projects, she has doubts and fears. She worries that her past will horrify Maxine and ruin our friendship. This is, at least for those of us willing to admit it, a common fear--that if people find out what we're really like, they will be so disgusted they will no longer love us. She's very real, and very likable.
The Blue Girl has teenage characters, and is listed as a young adult book, but like Waifs and Strays is completely accessible to anyone who remembers what it was like to be a teenager. So if you like Charles de Lint's writing, this is a book you don't want to miss. If you've never read one of his books before, this would be a fine place to start.
Little (Grrl) Lost (2007)
I’m a huge fan of Charles de Lint, and own most of his book. But when I get a new book of his, I’ll put off reading it for awhile, for some unknown reason. Then later I’ll come upon the book and remember I had it, snatch it up, and read it.
I’ve been out of sorts recently, and none of the books I’ve started reading have interested me. What I often do on this occasion is pick up an anthology of short stories, in this case, Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy. Once I started reading Charles de Lint’s story, I realized that it had been expanded into a novella, which I had. So the next day I picked up the novella Little (Grrl) Lost and started reading where the short story had left off.
T.J. is fourteen and hates living in the city. She was happy living on the farm, and didn’t want to move, no matter how much she understood that her parents had no choice. Elizabeth wants to see more of the world, but her status as a Little greatly restricts her life. Despite their differences, they end up becoming friends.
How’s that for a synopsis? Not that impressive, I know, but it’s hard to describe a Charles de Lint story without giving away the most interesting parts.
So if you have not read Charles de Lint, what should you expect? First, he is very good at writing teen characters. The teens in his books have problem and issues, but they deal with those issues the way real teens would: sometimes foolishly, but with the best of intentions, and they learn from their mistakes.
Next, as with many of his books, the story is set in and around Newford (even though I don’t believe this is ever explicitly stated) and you catch glimpses of characters from other stories.
One thing I particularly liked about this story was that when the situation TJ is in explodes, no one actually did anything wrong–the steps everyone takes are logical, and make sense; it’s simply that events mean different things to different people.
But I think that the characters are the heart of Charles de Lint’s stories. You care about the characters and what happens to them, because they feel like real people who make real mistakes. You can understand their troubles and problems, and even if you would not choose the path they did, you understand their path.
If you have not read Charles de Lint, then you could certainly begin here without difficulty–no understanding of Newford or other characters is necessary. Although TJ makes some decisions that might make parents uncomfortable, this would still be a good book for younger teens, and one I can heartily recommend.
Unfortunately, unlike most of his books, I found Dingo disappointing. Interestingly, I found myself surprised to discover the main character was male. As far as I can recall, most of his young adult books have female lead characters, and the red-headed girl on the cover also led me to assume the main character would be female. I have no idea is that is part of the reason the story didn’t work that well for me, after all, he’s written plenty of male characters in the past (even if the majority of his characters are female).
So what went wrong with this story? First, although I wanted to know what happened, it just didn’t draw me in the way his stories normally do, though I can’t precisely say why.
Second, I though the two boys were entirely two accepting of the faerie world they discover. These aren’t young boys, but are supposed to be 17 year-old high school seniors. Instead, they felt much younger, and acted in ways that just felt off to me. And although Miguel was the main character, I found Johnny to be far more interesting.
Although his book wasn’t horrible, it was very disappointing for a Charles de Lint book, and I can’t really recommend it if you’re expecting his usual quality.
Strangely, I think I would have rated this book higher if it had been written by someone else, however, I have high expectations for Charles de Lint, so this was a definite disappointment.
Published by Firebird
Dreams Underfoot (1993)
I believe that Dreams Underfoot is the first Charles de Lint book I bought. I may have read one of his stories somewhere, perhaps in a "Year's Best in Fantasy and Horror." (Now that I look, I may have first read "The Moon Is Drowning as I Sleep" in Snow White, Blood Red, and from there been sucked in.) Or I may have just seen the cover and snatched up the book.
I have to say that I love the original cover, with the art by Terri Windling. The white haired woman with horns and a wooden flute sprouting leaves. The cityscape in the background. For me, it is just completely evocative of Charles de Lint's writing. Not that there's anything wrong with the new cover, but it's just so much more sparse and barren.
Isn't that lovely?
But this isn't suppose to be about the covers, this is supposed to be about the writing, about the book that got me started reading Charles de Lint, now one of my top five favorite authors.
Dreams Underfoot is a short story collection, and almost all the stories are set in Newford, the mythical northern town, where the seams of the world between the mundane and the magical are thinner than they are elsewhere.
Dreams Underfoot is the introduction to many of the characters who populate Charles de Lint's later stories and books: Jilly Coppercorn, Sophie Etoile, Geordie and Christie Riddell, Meran and Cerin Kelledy, the Angel of Grasso street, Maisie and Tommy. These are characters you'll meet again, some of whom get their own books, some of whom drop from sight, appearing later only in passing.
The stories are urban fantasy, where the magical exists in our own time and place, alongside the reality we know, although the characters may deny their experiences.
Interestingly, these stories are always darker than I remember, although this collection may have a higher percentage of horror than other collections, as several stories, such as "The Sacred Fire" and "Pity the Monsters" are straight horror, while other stories have very darker elements and themes. But don't let that scare you away, because this is a wonderful collection, and an introduction to many characters that appear throughout Charles de Lint's work. And although I am not a fan of horror (I'm one of those strange people who doesn't like being scared), I do not find the horror particularly hard to read. It's not my favorite, but it's good.
And the darker stories may be horrifying in a different way, yet they are still excellent, not only in the way the develop the characters, but simply in their storytelling. Despite the upsetting nature of "In the House of My Enemy," it is still an excellent story, and one that I couldn't keep myself from rereading, despite knowing the darkness of the content.
But there are also plenty of stories that aren't dark. I particularly liked "Romano Drom", "The Moon is Drowning while I Sleep", and "Paperjack", although they are more upbeat than some of the other in this collection. (If you find the end of "Timeskip" depressing, you'll probably like "Paperjack".)
There is simply something about Charles de Lint's storytelling that I find irresistible. it never fails to amaze me, how he can weave an entire tale in so few words. He is the reason why I find so many short story collections disappointing, for he has set the bar to which all others must rise.
There are also stories here that have appeared in other collections, such as "Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair," which I believe may be slightly different here than it appeared elsewhere.
I am extremely curious, however, as to how much of Christie Riddell there is in Charles de Lint, and whether Christie's ideas about writing and short stories are Charles de Lint's, or if they are just part of that character.
If you love short stories, then any Charles de Lint collection is a must have, and Dreams Underfoot, with so many characters who recur in other stories, is a perfect introduction. However, as he is a master of writing short stories, you can start anywhere and be perfectly happy.
The Wild Wood (1994)
Originally published in '94, Orb rereleased The Wild Wood in 2004. It's a very short book, just 205 pages with wide margins and so it only took me about two hours to read.
This is an okay book (it couldn't be bad--it is Charles de Lint after all) but it won't become one of my favorites. The parts that I like about his work are all there--the characters, the story, the otherworld--but for some reason it never really quite comes together for me. I never get drawn into the story the way I normally do with his writing. I was interested in what was happening, but I wasn't absorbed.
If you're a de Lint fan you'll want this book, but if you haven't read any of his previous books, I don't recommend this is a starting place. It's not his strongest work, and feels more like it belongs in one of his short story collections than as a novel. If you're looking to start reading Charles de Lint, I'd recommend Jack of Kinrowan or one of his short story collections like Dreams Underfoot or Moonlight and Vines.
The Ivory and the Horn (1995)
The Ivory and the Horn is the second short story collection by Charles de Lint, and like Dreams Underfoot, is set in Newford, the mythical North American city, where mythical beings reside.
Reading these short stories makes me wish there there really was a Newford, so that I could move there. But if there was, and if I did, doing so would mean I was missing the point of his stories, which is to see the myth and beauty in the everyday world that surrounds us. But of course he puts it much more elegantly than that, like in this passage from "A Tempest in her Eyes."
"What bedevils you," he says, "is that you have misplaced the ability to see--to truly see behind the shadow, into the heart of the thing--and so you no longer think to look. And the more you do not look, the less you are able to see. Wait long enough and you'll wander the world as one blind."
I love mythology and folk tales, so how could I not but love Charles de Lint's stories. Yet what is so wonderful about his tales goes far deeper than his use of myth and folklore. He is also a wonderful storyteller, and that is how you'll get sucked into his stories, and how you'll keep reading his darker tales, even as you wince.
Like Dreams Underfoot, there are many dark stories in The Ivory and the Horn. In many of these stories, Charles de Lint addresses many of the ills and evils of society head on: child abuse, poverty, illness. Yet for all that these seem like subjects you don't want to read about, like stories that would depress you, the book is uplifting in a way that I cannot quite explain. Even as he talks about the true evils of our world, in stories like "The Forest Is Crying" and "Bird Bones and Wood Ash," the characters in those stories are inspiring. Though not too inspiring--they're not unreal paragons, but humans trying to do as best they can.
And then there is "The Wishing Well" which completely creeps me out--and not because of the rusalka. It's the way he so clearly describes and explains how someones life can unexpectedly spiral out of control that gives me chills.
But again, the stories aren't all dark. There's something about "Saxophone Joe and the Woman in Black" that amuses me, although it isn't a funny story. And I really like the stories about Sophie Etiole. There is also a story about Angel Grasso that's a mystery of sorts; there's something about the idea of taking a dead man's shoes so he can't haunt you that I find fascinating in a really eerie way.
I also very much liked "The Bone Woman," although one reads it hoping to find that Geordie will soon get over the loss of Sam. Some of Charles de Lint's characters you know are just going to be alone. Jilly is one. You want her to find someone nice, but you just don't see it happening. Geordie, however, doesn't belong by himself.
What I find interesting, is that in some of the stories that are written in the first person, we aren't told the name of the characters--or aren't told the name until well into the story--although if you are familiar with Charles de Lint's stories, then you know who the character is. Not that it matters of course, because although the stories add to what we know about the characters, you can appreciate each story on its own, without knowing anything about the past history of the character(s).
If you're a Charles de Lint fan, this is another must have collection. If you aren't a Charles de Lint fan, what are you waiting for?
Memory & Dream (1995)
Memory & Dream is not my favorite Charles de Lint book. Partially, because I keep forgetting that it's a novel and not a short story collection, so I pick up the book, start reading, and then think, "boy, this is a really long story." Then I remember that it's a novel, and I have to shift my expectations. It seems like a small thing, but it always throws me off, just at the point where I'm getting into the story.
Memory & Dream is set in Newford, so regular Newford characters like Jilly make appearances time and again, but the focus of the story is on Isabelle. There are two time-lines: The story begins in the present, 1993, and then jumps back 20 years to when Isabelle and Kathy and Alan were in college.
Isabelle is a painter and Kathy, her roommate, is a writer. They are all in college together, along with with Jilly Coppercorn and Sophie Etiole. Jilly makes several appearances at different times in the story. Sophie is just mentioned in passing several times.
Like the short story collections, and unlike Jack of Kinrowan, Memory & Dream has the darker themes of abuse and poverty, however, these themes are more subdued into the overall story of Alan's effort to publish a collection of Kathy's short stories, and to get Isabelle to illustrate them, and in the process we learn what drove Isabelle to radically change how she painted, as well as what happened to Kathy.
As with all his books, the storytelling is good, and the characters are interesting, but there's something about this book that's different from his other books, that just doesn't pull me in quite as deeply as his other stories. However, not my favorite Charles de Lint is still pretty excellent, and well worth reading. This just lacks a certain something that I can't quite put my finger on.
And strangely, I was reminded at one point of the book The Golden Key. The magic in the two stories is quite different, but the idea of a painter being able to create actual magic with their art... Of course now that I think about it, Lalo the Limner in Thieves' World had something similar, so perhaps the idea is more common than I thought.
If you have not before read Charles de Lint, this would be a fine place to start, however, as this is not one of my favorite of his books, so I would personally recommend Jack of Kinrowan or one of his short story collections to start with instead of Memory & Dream.
Moonlight & Vines (1999)
The third (I believe) Charles de Lint short story collection, Moonlight & Vines returns again to Newford. Although it starts and ends with a Christie Riddell story, and there are plenty of appearances by the characters with whom we've become familiar, there are also new characters, some we'll meet again, and some who seem to appear only this once.
I am particularly fond of several of the stories in this collection. In "Saskia," Christie first meets Saskia, we learn a small piece of Geordie and Christie's past, and most importantly, we learn about the Wordwood. I love the Wordwood.
"In the Pines" is another favorite, because Darlene seems as if she'd stepped out of Southern West Virginia or anywhere in Appalachia, and I love the idea of a ghost with good intentions. I'm also inordinately fond of this bit: "I don't lead an exciting life, but I'm partial to a lack of excitement. Gets to a point where excitement's more trouble than it's worth..."
"If I Close My Eyes Forever" is a rather strange story that, for all I like it, seems somehow out of place in this collection. For all it's fantastic elements, has the tone of hard boiled detective novel, so it's a bit of a jolt, being so different from what comes before and after. Although I have to admit that perhaps the tone is a bit like "China Doll," another story I really like. Both of main characters who appear and then disappear.
I love the stories within the story of "Heartfires" and I love "Crow Girls," both the story and the characters. I love their trickster nature combined with the fact that they're something more.
But I love most how these stories make you stop and think. Even when he's talking about the horrors that exist in real life--the horrors that his characters confront--there' still hope.
There are also bits in this collection that remind me of other things I've read and seen. "The Invisibles" shared elements of a Buffy episode, and I was reminded of Neil Gaiman's Death in the story "Shining Nowhere but in the Dark." Just a odd feeling.
As always, the writing and characters are excellent. The only flaw is that at one point the discussion of the horror of the real world changes from an element of the story, to preaching. I understand that the cause is important, but it steps outside the flow of the story.
It was reading this collection that I came to the realization that most of his best characters are female. Not that I have a problem with a male writer writing female characters, it's just odd to find one who does it well so consistently. And in general he writes more about women. There's Geordie and Christie, and Jack Crow and a couple of other men, but the majorities of these stories have female characters. Strange that I never noticed that until now.
As with all of Charles de Lint's short story collections, you don't have to have read any of his previous works to understand and enjoy this book. Each story stands on its own, and the past history of the characters, like Jilly, adds more depth to the stories, but the stories are fully understandable without that history.
Tapping the Dream Tree (2002)
Several stories where Jilly makes an appearence, as well as several other favorite characters, and several new characters, or characters who made a brief appearences in other stories, and return in Tapping the Dream Tree with their own stories.
The opening story, "Ten for the Devil" is one of these. We met Staley in passing in Moonlight and Vines, in the story "Seven for a Secret." In "Ten for the Devil," Staley accidentally calls up some unsavory characters with her spirit fiddle, and needs assistance in putting things right. I really like Staley, and I love the idea of the character Robert Lonnie. The insinuation of who he was and what he was doing, may be my favorite part of a what is a very good story.
In fact, there are very few stories in this collection that I don't love: "Granny Weather," "Big City Littles," "The Buffalo Man," "Pixel Pixes," "The Words that Remain," "Embracing the Mystery," "Forest of Stone," "Second Chance"--all of them were excellent.
In "The Buffalo Man," we get to visit with Meran and Cerin, who have been missing from the last two volumes. "Pixel Pixies" is a very interesting idea, that pixies have gotten into the Internet. I know that sometimes I'm convinced that sometimes my computer knows precisely the wrong time to crash, taking out hours of work. "Granny Weather" is another story of Sophie Etiole's serial dreaming, and she must visit Granny Weather, who advised her when she rescued the moon.
"The Witching Hour" is an interesting story that gives us another hint into the past of Geordie and Christie. It's a horror story, but it's more dark than scary.
I particularly like "Sign Here." It's very different from the other stories in the collection; it's completely dialog. No descriptors or anything else. Additionally, I find the story very amusing.
I also liked the further development of the Wordwood. Made me want to go and read Spirits in the Wires next. Except that The Onion Girl comes next chronologically, so if I don't got back further, The Onion Girl is next for me to read.
This is an excellent collection. All my favorite characters are here, and the writing and and storytelling are fantastic as usual. If you have not read any Charles de Lint before, this would be an excellent book to start.
The Onion Girl (2001)
First things first, this is an excellent book. It's the Jilly book that you always wanted, getting inside her head and learning why she's the way she is. However, I have to admit that this is one Charles de Lint book that I just don't like to read. Every time I read this book, I find myself (mentally) yelling at Charles de Lint, "Haven't you done ENOUGH to Jilly ALREADY?! Stop doing bad things to her already!"
The book starts with Jilly getting hit by a car. So you know things aren't going to be good, since Charles de Lint is not one for miracles and happy endings.
The time frame switches between the present and the past, and the point of view switches between Jilly, a girl named Raylene, and Joe Crazy Dog. I won't say anything about Raylene, because there isn't much I can say without giving that part of the story away. So, you'll just have to read it and figure everything out for yourself. I liked the bits with Joe Crazy Dog, because I think he's a fascinating character, and I like reading about it, and picking up hints about his past.
As for Jilly, it's hard to see her banged up and in pain and not her usual exuberant self. I mean, from the start here characters has always been covered in paint and flitting from one thing to the next, so it's just wrong to see her in a hospital bed.
As with all Charles de Lint books, the writing and storytelling are excellent. My only problem is that although this story is very good, I just don't like reading about Jilly being so unhappy. I suppose it's because he's given her such an awful past, that you think she deserves a happy future, even though in real like things don't work out that way.
If you are a Charles de Lint fan, then this book is a must read. If you haven't read Charles de Lint before, then this book might be easier to read, because you aren't already really attached to Jilly, and mad that he's being so mean to her. But that could just be me. Regardless, this is a must read. It's just not a must read often.
Waifs and Strays (2002)
Charles de Lint's latest short story collection is not as much for young adults as it is about young adults. As I recognized several titles in this collection from other collections, I hadn't been in a hurry to get this collection. That was my mistake. Only the last stories in the book are set in Newford, the rest of the stories in the book were all ones I had not read before.
I love Charles de Lint's stories, and I typically snatch up his books as soon as I see them. I have, however, hesitated for several of his recent books, which are re-releases of horror books he wrote under the name Samuel M Key. As I really don't care for horror, I've been wary of picking up anything of his recently, for fear of getting a horror book. I'm beginning to wonder whether that too was a mistake.
I particularly liked "There's No Such Thing", and "Sisters", two stories with the same characters that were quite different from his other stories that I have read, in that normally he doesn't deal write about things like vampires (In the introduction to Sisters he says that although he takes some pokes at Buffy, he's been a fan since he first saw it.) I very much liked "Fairy Dust", but liked "The Graceless Child" even better.
There were two stories from the Bordertown anthologies, "Stick" and "May This Be Your Last Sorrow". I hadn't heard of the Bordertown stories, which is my loss, because Charles de Lint's stories reminded me of a cross between Newfound and Thieves' World. But I put them on my wish list, just in case.
The Newford stories I already had in other collections, and although they are about young adults, they were not necessarily some of my favorite Newford stories. The two Maisie Flood stories, "But for the Grace Go I", and "Waifs and Stays", I do like, but "Ghosts of Wind and Shadow" is not one of my favorite stories. I just found it hard to feel sympathy for Lesli.
If you have not read anything by Charles de Lint before, I would recommend this as a good starting place. It gives you a good sample of his excellent writing, and gives you as introduction to Newford, the place where most of my favorite tales are set.
Spirits in the Wires (2003)
Spirits in the Wires is the story of the Wordwood, the literary Internet site set up by Holly and others that has taken on a life of its own. Saskia Madding is an independent being, created by the Wordwood, and sent out into the World As We Know It, where she has fallen in love with Christy Riddle, and he with her. All of this is past history as we start Spirits in the Wires.
In Spirits in the Wires, Saskia meets up with Christiana Tree, Christy Riddle's shadow, who is, although a resident of the Borderlands, a frequent visitor to the World As We Know It, and in sometimes contact with Christie.
Because the Wordwood has taken on a life of its own, and taken up residence in the Borderlands, its fall is a threat not just to those involved with the site, but to the Borderlands as well.
One of my favorite parts of Spirits in the Wires is the passage describing the healthy Wordwood.
"The grass and wildflowers are narrow phrases, swaying in the wind, punctuated with blossoms whose wordy petals radiate from clusters of vowels. The trees are thick paragraphs, dense with description, that lighten into shorter sentences and finally simply words as they follow the natural progression of trunk to branch to twig to leaf. Small verbs and nouns scamper along the branches, trilling sweet wordsongs, or soar by on wings of poetry."
Woods and a library combined. What more could one want?
I'm also very fond of Christiana's thoughts on changing:
But I don't want to change. I don't want to be someone else. Truth is, the idea of it kind of scares me. I remember, growing up, how I'd hear other people wishing they were someone else--and I still overhear that in conversations--but I've only ever wanted to be me. Me, with all my faults and scraped knees and bruised heart and all. I know I've done some dumb things, and into more trouble than I should have, but those mistakes and escapades helped shape sho I am.
Although most of the characters exist in previous stories and books, this book should easily be able to stand on its own, for someone who knows nothing about Newford of any of its population, more so I think than The Onion Girl.
Now that I've read two de Lint's in a short period of time, I desperately want to go back and reread the rest of his books, especially his short story collections. I want to go back and read the first story in which Jilly appears. I want to read about Mabon, Sophie Etiole's domain. I want to read about the Borderlands and the Hob that lives in the bookstore.
I want Charles de Lint to write more books about Newford.
Widdershins is the latest book by Charles de Lint, and I debated for about a month as to whether I wanted to buy it in hardback or wait for it to come out in paperback. First there was the fact that I own Spirits in the Wires and Tapping the Dream Tree in hardback. But the biggest deciding factor was knowing that this book was about Jilly and Geordie.
Although Jilly's story was resolved at the end of The Onion Girl, things weren't really that great, and I was really hoping that things would get better for her.
Although this book is ostensibly about Jilly and Geordie, the greater part of the story--and the most difficult part of the story--was about Jilly. Jilly is still not fully recovered from her accident, and is told that she may not fully recover until she finally deals with her past, and the abuse she suffered.
Geordie already has, to a great degree, dealt with his past. He and Christie have attempted to deal with their past, and to maintain a relationship and friendship that neither thought they could ever have. However, he must also deal with the fact that all of his past relationships have failed.
Meanwhile, tensions are brewing between the spirits who are native to the land, and the faerie who came over from Europe. Certain groups are bidding for power, while others are seeking revenge, and the fiddler Lizzie and her band are accidentally caught up in the hostilities.
As usual, this was a story that sucked me in almost immediately, and I hard a hard time putting it down. Of course I feel that way about all of Charles de Lint's writing, but this book was no exception.
I was trying to decide whether you could read this book without having read and previous Newford stories, and decided that although you probably could, it most likely wouldn't mean as much--especially the bits about Jilly. She's been through so much, that you can't help but cheer her on, and I'm not sure how much of that you'd feel if this was your first introduction to her. So although most Charles de Lint books can stand on their own, I'm not sure that I would recommend this without reading at least The Onion Girl.
Very strangely, the end of this book felt almost like a conclusion to the Newford stories. Several loose ends were tied up by the end of the book, which was surprising. I'm not saying that all Charles de Lint stories are depressing, but they typically have a dark (sometimes very dark) thread running through them, and there is typically not the happy ending you would expect. This story is dark--after all, we're dealing with Jilly's past, but the overall feel of the book was not as dark as many earlier books.
All in all, what I liked best about Widdershins was the resolution of some story arcs, and the fact that we get to see Jilly deal with some of her issues that were unresolved.
Plus, the Crow Girls.
If you have not read any other books by Charles de Lint, I recommend starting with one of his anthologies, and then coming back and reading this after you've gotten to know Newford and it's characters better. I think you'll enjoy the story better that way.
Promises to Keep (2007)
Charles de Lint said he wasn’t going to write about Jilly any longer–he’d already done plenty to her in The Onion Girl, and resolved things for her in Widdershins, but in Promises to Keep we get to go back to Jilly’s past. Not the terrible past, but the time when she was pulling her life together.
She does talk somewhat about the horror of her past, which is still hard reading even if we only get a glimpse rather than the details, but the focus of the story is of Jilly’s recovery and how she came out of her shell her first year at the University.
It’s also how she deals with her past come back to haunt her.
I love Charles de Lint’s writing. Whenever I get a new book I always put off reading it for awhile, for whatever reason. Then when I break down and finally read the book I wonder why on earth I waited so long.
Well, in this case it was knowing Jilly’s past, and not being sure if I wanted to revisit any part of it. Although her past is difficult, this book is not as heavy and dark as The Onion Girl, which was very good, but also very dark. We see instead Jilly overcoming the horrors of her past instead of reliving her past.
Can you read Promises to Keep without having read about Jilly previously? Yes. Of course, the it’s a different feeling about the resolution. Having read about Jilly in the future, the question is not what happens, but how does it happen. Someone who has never read about Jilly previously might take the story quite differently.
Regarding the book itself, I got the Subterrean Press hardcover, which is a beautiful version. It’s not a large book–it’s a novella not a novel, but the cover is wonderful, and I love the embossed paper inside the cover. It feels like Jilly deserves it.
If you’ve never read Charles de Lint, you could easily start here. If you’re a Charles de Lint fan, you probably read this when it first came out, and I’m behind the times.
Muse and Reverie (2009)
In the interim of course, he has had stories in a variety of anthologies, many of which I have, some of which I picked up solely because he had a story in the collection. And I just realized there are a lot of other anthologies in which he has stories, which must not be Newford stories, because they aren’t in this collection.
So what are the Newford stories? They’re set in the city of Newford, which is in either Canada or the US, and is a place where the world of magic is close to our world. Many of the stores have mythic origins, others have the feel of stories of stories you heard as a kid, that happened to a friend of a friend.
What they are not are paranormal or supernatural fantasies. They’re simply classic fantasy transferred to the city. They’re strange happenings–homeless disappearing, dream visitations from the dead, a small box that contains the entire world–that could be happening right now in the world in which we live.
As I said, several of the stories I’d read before. “Somewhere in My Mind there Is a Painting Box” the story that opens this anthology, was one of those, and is one of the strongest stories in this anthology.
The Crow Girls made several appearances, and were the center of their own story about Christmas, which was a lovely romp (pretty much what you’d expect from the Crow Girls).
Several of the stories involved the dead, and several others involve going back in time to change the past, and at least one story, “Riding Shotgun” overlaps the two. “Riding Shotgun” was a very unusual story, even for a Newford Collection, and although it was good, it felt at times like it was missing something, but I’ll be damned if I know precisely what that was.
Besides “Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box,” there were two other stories I particularly liked, that seemed to encapsulate everything I love about Newford stories. “Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion” is one of his stories that although complete leaves you wondering, “but what happened after that?” The closing story, “The World in a Box” goes back to the idea of ‘be careful what you wish for” only nowhere near as horrific as, say, “The Monkey’s Paw.”
I think that what I love best about Charles de Lint’s stories is that they are often about redemption. Not overtly so in an in-your-face manner, but in a way that makes you stop and consider the wishes we make every day, “if only…”
And one last thing for me to love–I absolutely adore the cover for this book. He tends to get amazingly fabulous covers, that somehow manage to give you the feel for the stories, without actually having to be about any one of the stories in particular. The covers are ethereal, much like his stories.
Companions to the Moon (2007)
Of course, this is Charles de Lint, so you never expect what she discovers.
Charles de Lint never fails to amaze me.
He can take 24 pages in that short span create characters and a world, and tell a story that draws you in.
When I read short stories by other authors, I can’t help but compare them to Charles de Lint, and I am often disappointed when they fall short.
On the other hand, when I find an author who can replicate this ability, I immediately fall in love.
Goodreads rating: 3.83 (12 ratings)
I often have a hard time putting down interesting books. Which means that if I'm reading a book I real like before bed, I end up staying up past my bed time instead of falling asleep. One solution is to read non-fiction before bed. The other solution is to read short story anthologies. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of high quality anthologies out there. At least, not enough to keep up with the rate at which I can read.
So I decided to go back and reread Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's fantasy anthology Snow White, Blood Red. This book has a whole bunch of things going for it at once: it's edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling; it's got stories by Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint; and the stories are retellings or reinventions of folk and fairy tales. Mostly fairy tales in this book.
Plus, a gorgeous cover by Thomas Canty.
For those who are unfamiliar with folk tales and fairy tales, many of the original tales--before they got cleaned up and given to kids--were filled with sex, (in addition to the casual violence of people getting eyes poked out or chopping off bits of feet or being shoved into ovens.)
In other words, these are not stories for children.
The Charles de Lint story, "The Moon is Drowning as I Sleep," is one of my favorites. It's a Sophie Etiole stories, however, like all of Charles de Lint's short stories, can be read and enjoyed without knowing anything of Newford. Another favorite is Neil Gaiman's "Troll Bridge." I love the idea of paths that take us off to hands hidden just beyond our sight. And I love the way that we are manipulated by the main character and the story.
Also, the stories I liked less tended towards horror. This book is a collection of fantasy and horror (as are many Ellen Datlow-Terri Windling anthologies) so I expected that there were going to be at least one or two stories that I don't care for. So it didn't really bother me.
As best I can tell, this anthology is still available, so if you like short stories, this is an anthology you won't want to miss. However, if you like anthologies, this is probably one you already have sitting on your shelves.
When I see a fantasy anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, I'll almost always pick it up, because I know it's going to be good. Very good. This volume however, has the added bonus of poems by both Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.
Needless to say I snatched it up--even thought it was in hardback--when I came across it.
These faery tales are based not upon the fairies of Disney but upon the faery of folktales. As they say in the introduction:
In this book about our good neighbors, we've asked a number of our favorite writers to travel into the Twilight Realm (an ancient name for the land of Faerie) and to bring back stories of faeries and the hapless mortals who cross their path. "No butterfly-winged sprites," we pleaded. "Read the old folktales, journey farther afield, find some of the less explored paths through the Realm.
It would be hard for me not to love this book.
One of my favorite stories was The Dream Eaters by A.M. Dellamonica. Part faerie tale, part hard boiled detective tale, it combines my favorite types of stories. I was, however, a little confused by her faerie and how time ran there.
All in all an excellent anthology. But I hardly expected anything less.
This book first caught my eye because I didn't expect to see Andrew Greeley's name in the fantasy section. Then I looked at the list of authors who wrote in this anthology: Charles de Lint, Diane Duane, Elizabeth Haydon, Morgan Llywelyn, Judith Tarr, Peter Tremayne, Jane Yolen. Even one of those names would have been enough inducement for me to pick up the book--but all those? And more!
Irish mythology, folktales, and fantasy. What more could I want?
Every story I read was excellent, although I did skip L.E. Modesitt Jr's science fiction story (I am rarely in the mood for science fiction.)
I probably would have recognized Charles de Lint's writing without seeing his name on the story. The Butter Spirit's Tithe is set in Newford (another giveaway that this is a de Lint story). Conn O'Neil has accidentally angered a butter spirit, and has to figure out how to remedy the situation, especially when the butter spirit claims that Conn will be his tithe to the devil.
This is an anthology that I will come back and read again, so if you're wondering whether you should make the purchase, my recommendation if definitely YES!
I try to pick up fantasy anthologies when I see them, since chances are they won't be there the next time I look. I picked up Maiden, Matron, Crone while ago, but saved it to read during the school year, because short story collections are much easier to put down than books.
Some of the stories in this collection were good, some were so-so, and a couple were quite excellent. And there weren't any stories that I absolutely hated, which is always a good thing. The best part of this collection, however, is that if focused on female characters, and for the most part strong female characters.
One of the reasons I picked up this anthology was because it contained a Charles de Lint story. "In Sight" is an evening spent with Ruthie Blue, a middle aged Newford folk musician. I suppose that's one of the nice things about books--you can have middle aged women in your stories, without someone telling you to make them younger and more attractive. I'm hoping that he will write more stories about Ruthie Blue, because I found her a very interesting character.
Huntress by Tamora Pierce
Unwrapping by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Real Thing by Alison Goodman
Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint
I’ll Give you My Word by Diana Wynn Jones
In the House of the Seven Librarians by Ellen Klages
Wintermoon Wish by Sharon Shinn
The Wizards of Perfil by Kelly Link
Jack O’Lantern by Patrician A. McKillip
Quill by Carol Emshwiller
Blood Roses by Francesca Lia Block
Hives by Kara Dalkey
Perception by Alan Dean Foster
The House on the Planet by Tanith Lee
Cousins by Pamela Dean
What Used to be Good Still Is by Emma Bull
This is a collection of fantasy, urban fantasy (minus the boinking) and science fiction. Interestingly, I didn’t mind most of the science fiction too much, though they weren’t my favorite stories in the collection.
Published by Firebird
I love short stories. Aside from collections by Charles de Lint, I best love anthologies by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling best. Their books are like comfort food, and I save them up for when I’m sick or feeling low.
In the same vein as The Green Man and The Faerie Reel, Datlow and Windling have this time collected stories about tricksters, and they’ve got some of my favorite authors in this collection: Charles de Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner. As usual, they manage to collect stories by some of my favorite story tellers.
For those who are Charles de Lint fans, “Crow Roads” is not a Newford tale, but an excellent story nevertheless, of a girl dreaming to escape her small, restrictive life. There is little more I can cay, other than as expected, this was an excellent story.
If like short story collections, or trickster tales, then you will want to read The Coyote Road. It has stories from many of my favorite writers, and as with all their collections, I was delighted to discover new authors for whom I’ll be on the lookout.
I’ve previously read “Sisters” by Charles de Lint (of course I have. I love Charles de Lint). As with everything else he does, he has his own take on vampirism, but of course the focus of the story is not on vampirism, but upon the relationship between the two sisters.
Expectedly, the stories I liked the least were the ones with the strongest horror bent. Doesn’t mean they were bad, but they were not my cup of tea.
Published by Prime Books
I can read his stories time and again, and there is just as much magic as there was the first time.
This collection was created when he asked his readers to help him create this collection–to help him pick out the very best of his short stories.
There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of Newford stories here, since many of his collection are Newford centered stories. So we get to spend time with Jilly and Sophie and Georgie. But there are non-Newford stories here as well, and a handful I had not read previously.
If you have not read any Charles de Lint before (this strikes me as a nonsensical thing, yet I know there are lots of people out there who have not read Charles de Lint) then this is the collection for you.
I will note, however, that like his other collection, many of these stories have a dark theme. There are many abused children, and many of Jilly’s stories talk of her the dark of her past. Yet, even in the darkest stories, there is still light and hope, of life going on.
And underlying everything is magic–the other world, be it the Crow Girls or the dream world or fairies. It’s all wonderful to me.
Published by Tachyon
The only thing I didn’t like, is I wish the anthology hadn’t ended on such a dark and depressing story.
Mind you, the dark and depressing stories were good–very good–but these tales ran very true to the original stories, with a not insignificant amount of rape and incest and general horribleness. Just like the original tales.
But there’s also a good amount of humor as well, and I just wished the collection had ended with one of the funnier stories.
Unsurprisingly, another favorite was “My Life As A Bird” by Charles de Lint. I’ve read this story previously, but it’s still lovely. It’s not Jilly’s story, but she appears several times, advising Mona, and listening to her (as Jilly does).
Please note, as previously mentioned, the stories have rape and incest and lots and lots of sex in addition to evil stepmothers and other such killers.
There were also a fair number of very dark and very depressing tales that were very good, but that I didn’t enjoy at all.
Published by Night Shade Books
This is a lovely YA anthology, with some amazing stories by some of my favorite authors. I didn’t love all the stories, but none of them were bad. The theme is young witches coming of age, but the stories are far greater than that.
I love everything Charles de Lint writes. “Barrio Girls” is no exception. Ruby and Vida want magic, but when they find it, things turn out badly (as they often do) but I adore how things worked out.
Published by Random House