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Moonheart
Charles de Lint
Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia, unabridged
Blackstone Audiobooks, total time 20 hours

Moonheart
Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint was born in 1951 in Bussum, the Netherlands, and emigrated to Canada at the age of four months. He now lives in Ottawa. He published three novels under the pseudonym Samuel M Key which have subsequently been reprinted by Orb Books as Charles de Lint. Many of his later stories center around the mythical North American city of Newford and a regular cast of characters that make cameo and feature appearances. He has received many awards including the 2000 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection for Moonlight and Vines. He has also published a children's book, Circle of Cats, with artist Charles Vess.

Charles de Lint Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Widdershins
SF Site Review: Triskell Tales 2
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 Nicki Gerlach

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Moonheart is unlike any other fantasy novel I've read: it's a unique blend of ancient legend and modern lives and sensibilities (well, if the early 80s can still be considered modern.) It has elements of urban fantasy, strong underpinnings of Native American and Celtic mythology, and more than a hint of The X-Files-type government conspiracy thrown into the mix, and yet, it defies simple categorization into any of these genres.

The story starts with Sara Kendall, a young woman who discovers some strange items in the storeroom of an Ottawa antique store she runs with her uncle, Jamie Tamsin. The objects are interesting in themselves -- a detailed painting depicting the meeting between a Native American shaman and a European bard, a bone disk with strange engravings on it, and a gold ring encased in clay -- but even more extraordinary is the way that these artifacts seem to tug on Sara's consciousness, pulling her into the forest primeval, into a world of magic, mystery and danger.

Sara soon realizes that this danger is not only coming from the ancient evil that stalks the other world, but also from her own world. A secret branch of the RCMP investigating paranormal activity is looking for Thomas Hengwr, a one-time associate of her uncle. When the bone disk gets linked to Hengwr, then Sara, Jamie, and other residents of the vast and mysterious Tamsin House are put under investigation by an Inspector Tucker -- who is also being unknowingly tailed by other more sinister forces. Before the situation can come to a head on the streets of Ottawa, however, the characters find themselves facing a conflict that is older still, and a hatred and malice that spans time and worlds and threatens everything they hold dear. However, they are not without allies -- residents of the Otherworld who also oppose the ancient evil with all of the magics at their disposal.

The number one strength of this book, I thought, was its characters. Sara, Jamie, Tucker, Kieran (an apprentice of Thomas Hengwr), and Blue (an ex-biker resident of Tamsin House) all felt familiar -- not clichéd, but like people I already knew. They were detailed and multi-layered, and immediately sympathetic: their peril drew me into the story from the beginning, and I have a feeling that they'll remain memorable long after I finished the book.

However, while the central characters were excellently drawn, the supporting cast suffers from sheer numbers. Between the people in the government, the RCMP, the other residents of Tamsin House, the human inhabitants of the Other World, the supernatural inhabitants of the Other World, etc., there are a whole host of people (and spirits) who appear for a minute or two, and then disappear for most of the rest of the book. Personally, I had a hard time keeping the names, affiliations, and motivations of the tertiary characters straight, and felt like they at times distracted from the main story of Tamsin House and its inhabitants.

There was a similar overabundance of themes, plots, and motifs running through the book. I can certainly appreciate Charles de Lint's intent to interweave ancient mythology into the modern world to give both a deeper resonance, and on the whole, it works well. However, there is just so much going on -- not only the battle of good and evil and the traveling between worlds, but also multiple types of magic, two separate romances, Celtic legend, the effect of Europeans on Native American beliefs and culture, political conspiracy, time travel, police procedural, and so on -- that some pieces can't help but fall through the cracks. De Lint mostly keeps a deft hold on these disparate threads, weaving them together into an exciting and satisfactory conclusion. Unfortunately, several subplots simply don't have enough time devoted to them to give them the depth and completeness they deserve, leaving me feeling a little scattered.

Overall, I did really enjoy listening to this novel -- it may have needed a little tightening in places, but the themes and ideas it tackles are ambitious and original, and the story exciting and absorbing. Paul Michael Garcia did a very nice job with the reading -- the principal characters each had a recognizable voice, the women weren't overly whiney, and his narration added an appropriate gravitas to the more mythopoeic elements of the story. This was my first de Lint novel, but it won't be my last.

Copyright © 2008 Nicki Gerlach

Nicki Gerlach is a mad scientist by day and an avid reader the rest of the time.  More of her book reviews can be found at her blog, fyreflybooks.wordpress.com/.


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