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A Handful of Coppers
Charles de Lint
Subterranean Press, 314 pages

A Handful of Coppers
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: 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
Information about the Tamson House Mailing List
One Tamson House
Newford Chronicles

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

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In his introduction to these stories, Charles de Lint writes, "If this is (God forbid) your first visit to my fiction, I think I'm telling better stories these days."

He is right.

But that is not the whole of it. Yes, this is a collection of stories from when the author was, in his own words, "not done yet" -- he made up with enthusiasm what he lacked in wealth of experience, or pure insight. The luminosity with which some of the later de Lint stories are infused, with which they positively glow -- that isn't quite here. Not yet. These stories are the equivalent of the tilting yard, where the young squire trains with sword and lance until he is good enough to become a knight. There is value in this practice. If there is no luminosity yet, there is a glimmer of its formation, of the first bright sparks of it. I've always enjoyed a favourite writer's "pilgrim's progress" kind of works, the ones where I could see a timeline, trace a development, find out where the stepping stones were that launched a career that subsequently took off in the seven-league boots of the fairy tales, leaping over every obstacle in its way.

I have to admit, having immersed myself in de Lint's Newford stories and their rich background, that I do find the tales in A Handful of Coppers almost too generic for my liking. I've read similar tales before, many times, and while I've always liked Charles de Lint's style that in itself isn't enough to quite lift the stories out of that generic layer into the special and the unique, not to the extent that I've come to expect from his work. So this book goes into my collection, filed under "Charles de Lint -- beginnings" -- but it's things like his Tapping the Dream Tree that I'll go back and re-read again and again.

So Charles de Lint is right -- he graduated to other things, bigger and better things, a long time ago. But that doesn't make the Handful of Coppers collection any the less valued by de Lint's army of fans. It's kind of irresistible, in a way. It's like the author is showing you baby pictures of his "children". There's a kind of misty proud smile hovering above it all. This is what they were like, the stories, before they grew up -- before they assumed their depth and their insight and their glow. These stories are still in pinafores and in pigtails, their noses full of childhood's freckles, their mouths still round with the wonder of youth. They deserve to have a little while spent playing with them, before you go back to the 'adult room' and carry on the more grown-up conversations with de Lint's later, more mature work.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Following her successful two-volume fantasy series, Changer of Days, her latest novel, Jin-shei, is due out from Harper San Francisco in the spring of 2004.


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