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Dreams Underfoot
Charles de Lint
Narrated by Kate Reading, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 16 hours

Dreams Underfoot
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 Sarah Trowbridge

In Charles de Lint's world, the skin between the mundane business of everyday life and the realm of magical mischief is always thin. Passing from one to the other is effortless and can take but a moment. Often, his characters are deep into the doings of the world beyond before they begin to notice or admit that anything unearthly is going on. Some of de Lint's characters acknowledge and embrace the other realm that lies just on the other side of that thin and permeable barrier, while others clasp their skepticism close, denying the evidence of their senses for as long as they can. But in the fictional North American city of Newford, there are always dreams underfoot. Whether one walks the streets of the ruined neighborhood known as the Tombs, strolls the waterfront in town or on Wolf Island, or steps into the convivial precincts of Kathryn's Cafe or Feeney's Kitchen or The Harp, one is bound to kick up something strange and wondrous.

Though de Lint -- widely considered the principal pioneer of urban fantasy -- has penned numerous works in the genre that are set elsewhere, he is probably best known for the distinctive city of Newford and its loose aggregation of inhabitants (both mortal and otherwise), many of whom tend to reappear from tale to tale. In the course of Dreams Underfoot, nineteen stories of which all but one are set in Newford, the city comes to life. The magic that pulses through its streets, echoes within the walls of its buildings, and even falls from its skies or courses through its riverbed, reveals itself in its many guises as each story unfolds. By the close of the final tale, Newford itself has become as palpable a character as any of the people whose lives interweave and overlap throughout the city's past and present.

The Newford resident most prominently featured throughout Dreams Underfoot is Jilly Coppercorn, an artist who has survived a childhood of abuse and subsequent years on the street, to become a sort of lodestone for the creative community, including various waifs and strays, as well as more stable types who nevertheless find themselves grappling with forces beyond their ken. Other familiar de Lint characters appearing in this collection include the Riddell brothers, Christy and Geordie. One of the standout narratives in the collection is the pair of related stories, "Timeskip" and "Paperjack," involving Geordie's lost love Sam and his discovery of what became of her after the past stole her away.

Traditional happy endings are not the order of the day for these urban fairy tales. Some stories end more hopefully than others, but the overall atmosphere is one of melancholy and shadow. Charles de Lint concerns himself more with the unhappy bargains that are an inevitable part of life than with the triumph of the human spirit. One of the more affecting tales in Dreams Underfoot is "Our Lady of the Harbour," a Newford-style reworking of "The Little Mermaid," complete with a bittersweet resolution that is far more Andersen than Disney.

Veteran audio book reader Kate Reading capably narrates each story. Her wide vocal range serves the listener well, as she is able to voice the many different characters distinctively and lend each the emotional weight he or she commands in turn. A minor complaint regarding the production: one might have wished for a clearer demarcation between the end of one story and the beginning of the next. Indeed, given how significant music is in so many of these stories and how many of the characters are musicians, it would have made sense to insert brief musical flourishes to ease and clarify the transitions from story to story. All in all, though, this audio presentation is a welcome re-issue of de Lint's earlier work, and a pleasant way for readers just discovering Newford to catch up on some of its history.

Copyright © 2009 Sarah Trowbridge

Sarah Trowbridge reads (and listens) compulsively, chronically, and eclectically. She is a public librarian in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

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