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Triskell Tales 2
Charles de Lint
Subterreanean Press, 176 pages

Triskell Tales 2
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 and Drink Down the Moon (both later republished together 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 stage 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 Review: Moonlight and Vines
SF Site Review: Quicksilver & Shadow
SF Site Review: The Wild Wood
SF Site Review: Mulengro
SF Site Review: A Handful of Coppers
SF Site Review: The Onion Girl
SF Site Review: Forests of the Heart
SF Site Reading List: Charles de Lint
SF Site Review: Jack of Kinrowan
SF Site Review: Moonlight and Vines, A Newford Collection
SF Site Review: Someplace to be Flying

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

Charles de Lint has an absolutely wonderful tradition going on. Every year, he self-publishes, under the aegis of Triskell Press, a small chapbook, whose circulation is limited to friends and family, and he sends these out for Christmas. So every Christmas, his nearest and dearest get an uncommissioned story. But why stop there? Eventually, be it sooner or later, he makes those chapbooks available to a wider audience. In the first volume of Triskell Tales (Subterranean Press, 2000), he collected the first twenty-two years worth. This volume brings together seven more tales written over the last six years, 2000-2005. None of these stories are particularly long, and they're all even more upbeat and optimistic than the usual positive outlook expressed in the standard de Lint story. As de Lint puts it, these are like little flashlights shining against the growing darkness of the world.

"Big City Littles" follows children's book author Sheri Piper, whose faithful retelling of a story once told by her grandfather earns her the attention of a miniature man, one of the mythical Littles. All her new friend wants to know is, how can he and his tribe become birds again, like they were originally? The answer lies in a spot of old magic, and Sheri's own willingness to help.

"Refinerytown" brings us back to recurring character Mona, a comic book artist/writer who gets an unexpected visit from the previously imaginary subject of her newest project. In-jokes abound as real life writer Nina Kiriki Hoffman and editor Sharyn November make cameos in this charming, brief episode in a life already spotted with strangeness. After all, Mona's the one dating a werewolf. While this one is significant in that it takes a step forward in the natural progression of several characters, including perennial favorite Jilly Coppercorn, it's noticeably lacking in any real conflict. View this one as an interlude, and savor the visuals it calls up.

"A Crow Girls' Christmas" is exactly what the title suggests. The shortest of the batch by far, it looks briefly at Mia and Zaida, two hyperactive, flighty teenage girls who just happen to be some of the most powerful beings in creation. Not that they themselves remember it. When they take a seasonal job as Santa's elves in a mall, you can expect a pleasant kind of chaos to occur. Especially if candy canes are involved.

"Sweet Forget-Me-Not" revisits the concept of the gemmin, transitory spirits of the city who appear as almost androgynous teenage girls to those in need of a morale boost, staying only until they've accumulated a certain amount of memories. How will the arrival of a new batch of gemmin affect the life of Ahmad Nasrallah, a student of Lebanese descent, who's had a rough time with bullies in the post 9/11 world? When the time comes for the gemmin to depart, how will his life change again? This may be the most bittersweet of the collection, but at the same time, it's almost, dare I say it, adorable in how it portrays the interaction between mortal and gemmin.

The longest of the tales is "Da Slockit Light," named after a Shetland fiddle tune. People have started to go missing down in Old City, that ancient part of Newford swallowed by an earthquake centuries ago. The answers look to lie with the goblins, but even their king doesn't know what exactly is going on. It's up to the ageless fiddler Cerin Kellady and his dryad wife, Meran, to figure out what has been happening down there. And when Cerin himself is taken and transformed by hostile magic, can Meran's chosen agent, an undependable street kid with a larcenous streak, succeed in rescuing him? It's all in the choices one makes. Now, as far as the stories in this book goes, this has the most action, and the most conflict. Paradoxically enough, it may be my least favorite, in part due to the sheer number of supernatural characters involved. Over the years, I've come to see de Lint's stories as "mundane person encounters something odd, fey, or magical, which changes his/her outlook and/or helps them with a problem in their life." So to throw together too many of these fey characters who've been introduced (Cerin and Meran, Lucius, Goon the Goblin King) in one spot, it's like overkill. I know, arguing about the presence of magical creatures in a story written by an author famous for his stories about magical things seems silly, but even Jilly, Newford's answer to Kevin Bacon (as in six degrees of...) observes the overkill of exotic origins present in one such gathering. That quibble aside, this is a great story, especially in how it tackles the moral quandary of interfering with the lives of those who don't want interference, no matter how much an outsider might think otherwise.

"The World in a Box" follows a musician who also works part-time at an antique booth. When he discovers a small wooden box that holds the ability to affect the world, he's forced to make a profound decision about what he wants out of life. Can a man given the power of God resist the urge to play God? This story revisits one of de Lint's more frequent themes, that of making the right choice, no matter what the temptation. As with most of de Lint's focal characters, John is a good man who knows how to make the right choice, but with a few mistakes along the way.

Finally, we get to "This Moment," the newest story and my favorite of this collection. Tom's a nice, normal guy who works at Java Jane's Joint. Tom also has the Sight, and occasionally tries to take pictures of the supernatural things he sees. However, it's not until he meets Josie, a cute musician (ever notice how many of de Lint's main characters are creative types? I'd like to see a financial advisor meet a troll, or a car salesman get carjacked by goblins...) that Tom figures out what to do with the Sight. After all, what good is Seeing fairies if you don't do anything about it? This story is charming and satisfying, an old-fashioned character-driven romance that manages to ask just the right questions to keep the reader guessing. At least twice, I thought I knew where de Lint was going. Both times I was pleasantly wrong, and happily so.

De Lint is one of my favorite writers, and getting to read anything new from him is always a treat. I've always felt his strongest forte was in short fiction, and he's one of those few writers who's been able to build an entire repertory cast and sketch out an entire imaginary (if highly believable) city out of overlapping short stories over the years. Here, like always, he shines. I know I've read some of these stories before, either in their chapbook form or as part of other collections, but it's great to have them in one place. As far as urban fantasists and magical realists go, de Lint is still one of the undisputed masters, weaving together the real world with the fantastical effortlessly and making it all sing.

This is definitely a collection worth looking at, especially for completists. The only drawback is the price tag: a comparatively hefty $40 for a 176-page book. I know I'd pay that for new de Lint material, but it's still a lot to ask. All I can say is that Subterranean Press does excellent work, and you really do get quality for your money. So apart from my hesitation over the price, I highly, heartily recommend this collection of short fiction from Charles de Lint, and eagerly anticipate a third volume in another six or so years.

Copyright © 2006 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

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