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The Wild Wood
Charles de Lint
Orb, 205 pages

The Wild Wood
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: 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
Information about the Tamson House Mailing List
One Tamson House
Newford Chronicles

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

Plagued by inexplicable dreams of a magical world, and haunted by the buried pains of her past, artist Eithnie Gerrow has retreated to her cabin, deep in the Canadian woods. Even there, she can't escape the otherworldly contacts that seek her out in her sleep, their touch weakening the distinction between the real world and that of Faerie. Unable to banish the feeling that she's been targeted for something greater than she can explain, likewise unable to exorcize their influence from her art, she visits friends down in the deserts of Arizona. There, Eithnie finds the strength to return home and confront her problems, aided in part by friends, by her faithful cousin and friend Sharleen, and by the mysterious mountain man, Joe.

Ultimately, Eithnie's healing process ties into the needs of the forest and its Faerie inhabitants; her decision could heal or destroy the creatures who embody the hidden magic and beauty of the world.

The synopses part of this review is short simply because this is not an overly long book with a complicated storyline. Quite honestly, it's one of de Lint's longer short stories in tone, expanded to fit the needs of a short novel. See, this all stemmed from a joint project with Brian Froud, once upon a time. de Lint, along with Midori Snyder, Terri Windling, and Patricia McKillip were all part of this project. Froud handed the quartet of authors a stack of his artwork, and had them pick and choose the ones that spoke to them, and then they went off to write the stories that those pictures inspired.

"They had the freedom to write whatever they chose, just as I'd had the freedom to paint what I chose; yet we'd agreed on a central premise: a recognition that Faerie, inextricably bound as it is to nature and natural forces, is gravely threatened by the ecological crises that human beings have brought to our world."
--Brian Froud
Unfortunately, changes in Bantam's publishing program at the time led to cancellations; as a result, only The Wild Wood and Patricia McKillip's Something Rich and Strange were published as planned, artwork and all. The full story, cover art and all, can be found here:

This brings us back to The Wild Wood, which has been reprinted by Orb, sans artwork, in a trade paperback format, as opposed to the original mini-hardback format. Ten years after its first publication, it's still a beautifully haunting example of de Lint at his strongest, when the real world and the world of Faerie intersect. Inevitably, when this happens, the lucky (or unlucky) mortal touched by Faerie is changed forever. Usually it's for the better, but Faerie always has its price. de Lint is a master of description when it comes to invoking the surreal magic and beauty found all around us, whether it's an urban cityscape, the deep woods of the Canadian wilderness, or the alien expanse of the Southwest desert. His gift lies in making whatever locale he writes about seem unique, and memorable. Eithnie, the main character, hails from one of his favorite templates: the artist/writer/creative type whose innate creativity gives them a special insight relating to, or ability to perceive, the creatures of Faerie.

All in all, The Wild Wood is beautifully told, and as sharply detailed as the Froud art which originally inspired it. I still much prefer the first version of this book, but for those seeking a good urban fantasy story, or for those who weren't lucky enough to find The Wild Wood when it first came out, this is an acceptable alternative. de Lint fans won't want to pass this up.

Copyright © 2004 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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