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Someplace to be Flying
Charles de Lint
Tor Books, 384 pages

Someplace to be Flying
Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint is one of those rare authors whose work is envied by writers and book editors as much as by his fans. His contemporary fantasy style is often quoted on an author's cover when the publisher wants to convey the type of book it is.

Charles de Lint's home page
ISFDB Bibliography
Information about the Tamson House Mailing List
One Tamson House
Newford Chronicles

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

If you've visited Charles de Lint's home page sometime in the past several months, you've no doubt noticed the proliferation of crows. Were you curious as to the reason for so many crows? You may have had some clue if you've read de Lint's recent short stories. If you've missed the short stories, however, don't despair: the crow connection is made clear in Someplace to be Flying.

This novel is set in de Lint's fictional, modern North American city of Newford, and in fact a few of the characters from 1997's Trader (now out in paperback) put in some appearances. The mythology of this novel is somewhat different from that which was established in Trader, but it is compatible. Someplace to be Flying is most assuredly not a sequel, however. In fact, if you haven't already been exposed to his writing, this is as good an introduction as any to de Lint's unique style.

Urban fantasy, for the uninitiated, is a work set in the present day (or pretty near) in an urban metropolis (or pretty near), but the catch is that magic works -- on some level. The magic in Someplace to be Flying is based largely on Native American creation myth. The mythological beings, the "animal people," include such personalities as Coyote the trickster, Jackdaw the storyteller, and of course, the delightful, innocent, wise, playful, dangerous Crow Girls. These animal people are able to take on human shape and integrate themselves so seamlessly into modern society that one could be sitting right next to you and you wouldn't even know it.

Someplace to be Flying is the story of two more or less ordinary people who get caught up in a feud between animal people families. Except there's a lot more at stake here than in any typical family feud -- namely the fate of the world. Besides the instigator Coyote and his sidekick Fox, the principal players in this struggle are the Corbæ (Raven the creator, the Crow Girls, Jackdaw the storyteller, Rooks, Jays, and various other corvid relations) versus the Cuckoos. In many ways, de Lint's cuckoos are very reminiscent of John Wyndam's in The Midwich Cuckoos. De Lint's are just as chilling to encounter, and are even more wantonly malicious in their behaviour. These are bad guys through and through -- the only shades of gray are in their immaculately tailored gray suits.

Much of the magic in Someplace to be Flying approaches Tim Powers on the weirdness meter, making the reader wonder whether certain characters are simply delusional or perfectly sane in a world gone mad. For example, a mother goes mad searching for her daughter's twin, even though only one girl was born. Apparently. Twelve years later, however, the mysterious twin suddenly manifests herself in a gruesomely bizarre and sanity-threatening manner.

One of the underlying themes throughout Someplace to be Flying is the role of storytelling in a society. I am a great believer in the importance of storytelling, and maybe that makes me a little bit biased. But if you don't find something in the plot to keep you turning pages ravenously (and I'm sure you will), then the colourful characters, both animal people and people people, will charm you thoroughly. All in all, this is a very enjoyable book from one of the genre's best.

Copyright © 1998 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

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