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Moonlight and Vines, A Newford Collection
Charles de Lint
Tor Books, 384 pages

Design: Terri WIndling
Moonlight and Vines, A Newford Collection
Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint has been writing urban fantasy mixing elements of Native American and Celtic folklore for a long time. Many of his earlier stories, such as Moonheart, Jack the Giant Killer, Drink Down the Moon (both later republished as Jack of Kinrowan), Ascian in Rose, Westlin Wind and Ghostwood (later collected and republished as the single volume Spiritwalk) explored this using the city of Ottawa as a backdrop. The fictional city of Newford became the backdrop for novellas such as "Ghosts of Wind and Shadows", "Our Lady of the Harbour", "The Wishing Well", The Dreaming Place; short story collections such as Dreams Underfoot and The Ivory and the Horn; and novels such as Memory and Dream, Trader, and Someplace to be Flying.

Charles de Lint Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Reading List: Charles de Lint
SF Site Review: Someplace to be Flying
Information about the Tamson House Mailing List
One Tamson House
Newford Chronicles

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Robert Francis

Have you ever wondered where the beings which populated the old myths of the "New World" went when those who called it the "New World" got here? Did Raven, Coyote, Bear, or the manitous just disappear? Did they get forced into tiny plots of land and become largely ignored by the rest of us? Or, did they manage some sort of détente with the newcomers -- the realm of faerie, the sidhe -- which undoubtedly came along with the Europeans five hundred years ago. What would happen in a place where the animal spirits of the Native Americans and the pixies, nixies, pookahs, hobgoblins, and others of faerie co-existed? Charles de Lint has certainly been wondering this for a long time, and Moonlight and Vines is one of the places where we can see where his musings have led.

Moonlight and Vines is a short story collection set in the fictional city of Newford. Newford is a city built on the remains of a much older city, which had been buried in an earthquake. Sometimes I wonder if this is a metaphor for the overlay of European culture on the pre-existing American cultures. In Newford, magic happens. Not that Newford is in anyway special, rather, de Lint's stories include those people for whom the magic of the place is real, whether they believe in it or not. One gets the feeling that, as in any major urban center, the vast majority of the people in Newford are so wrapped up in their own lives that they lose sight of the wider world. De Lint's stories are about those few who are actively engaged with the wider world, or those who have the wider world plopped squarely on their doorstep, and in Newford, the wider world is a magical one.

Many of the stories in Moonlight and Vines are about those who had not given much thought to magic until the day it taps them on the shoulder (or whacks them upside the head). The story "In this Soul of a Woman" tells of a woman who had almost given up on herself, until she befriends a vampire who wants to die. "Big Sky" tells the story of a soul (literally) who almost loses his chance of passing on, until he learns compassion for those souls more lost than he. In "Birds", a practical woman finds a path to inner peace after helping a street urchin fulfill an apparently nonsensical quest. In "Passing", a journalist learns there's more to life in the city after getting entangled in the problems of the Lady of the Lake. In "Crow Girls", a woman whose failed marriage had threatened to drag the rest of her life down with it recovers her ability to find joy in her life after an encounter with a pair of crow girls. In "My Life as a Bird", another relationship-damaged life gets a boost from a faerie with a curse of his own. In "In the Quiet after Midnight", a woman desperate to find some magic in her life finds it after learning of a friend's childhood encounter with Pan. And in "The Pennymen", a woman learns to open her life, if only a bit, to the possibility of a wilder, more magical world, when it becomes the only way to keep the best friendship she has ever had.

Much of Charles de Lint's early contemporary fantasy work was set in Ottawa. Around 1990, the fictional city of Newford became the place for his stories and novels. Perhaps de Lint felt less constrained by operating in a completely fictional setting, but I suspect that his characters were becoming so well-formed that they needed a place of their own to call home. Don't get me wrong, I think that Moonheart and the books later republished as Spiritwalk are fantastic, and in no way suffer from being set in de Lint's fictionalized Ottawa. It's just that the Newford books have a different level of "realness" about them, as if by allowing himself to cut the city out of whole cloth rather than relying on an existing template, he has been able to make his imagined city of Newford more "real" for the rest of us.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the short stories contained in Moonlight and Vines, and I assure you that no prior exposure to Newford is required. I will caution that in this volume, as with many of de Lint's Newford works, the stories don't always conclude with the happiest of happy endings for their characters. Many times, fairly dark tales will end with the main character finding the hope that better times are on the way, or that the worst is over. If you need to have a happy ending spelled out for you, these stories may not satisfy. But, if you can understand the power of finding hope where none had previously existed, or earning a chance to start your life anew when your fate had appeared unfortunately predestined, then I strongly recommend these stories. To repeat a quote from "In the Quiet after Midnight", attributed to one of the Newford stories central characters, Jilly Coppercorn, "Magic's never what you expect it to be, but it's often what you need". This sums up de Lint's stories pretty well, too.

Copyright © 1999 by Robert Francis

Robert Francis is by profession a geologist, and, perhaps due to some hidden need for symmetry, spends his spare time looking at the stars. He is married, has a son, and is proud that the entire family would rather read anything remotely resembling literature than watch Jerry Springer.

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