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Charles de Lint
Tor, 560 pages

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: 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 Michael M Jones

For as long as there have been stories about Newford, the mythical North American city which has become Charles de Lint's signature setting, there have been Geordie Riddell and Jilly Coppercorn. Geordie's a musician with a fear of commitment and a long string of failed relationships (sometimes, he'll even tell you about the girlfriend who was stolen by a ghost from the past...) Jilly is Newford's answer to Kevin Bacon -- everyone knows her. An artist whose career and life were shattered by a tragic accident several years ago, she's been recovering ever so slowly. Geordie and Jilly are the best of friends, but what they don't realize, what everyone around them does, is that they'd be perfect for each other. If they'd only let themselves take the chance.

Of course, it's not that easy at all. Because Jilly and Geordie's long-awaited love story is about to play out against a backdrop of epic proportions. Someone -- or something -- is stirring up the magical beings that inhabit the spaces around, between, behind, and amongst the mundane setting of Newford. There's always been bad blood between the European fairies and the Native American "cousins," or animal spirits. An uneasy truce has kept the European fairies mostly confined to the urban places, while the native spirits maintain a hold over the country and wilder spots. And of course, there's always someone willing to tip over the apple cart. But who stands to gain from a war between the races? Who is out there manipulating a gang of fairy bogans to do his dirty work? And why is he targeting certain members of the corbae clan? Those are questions whose answers could save, or destroy Newford.

Meanwhile, Jilly's gone missing, thrown into a magical prison where her worst fears and childhood traumas have free rein to once again terrorize her. Geordie, in an attempt to find and save her, has gotten himself into even worse trouble. And Lizzie Mahone, a fiddler who accidentally stumbles across some murderous fairies, is likewise caught up in the whole mess. Before it's over, the most powerful players in Newford will be roused to action. Raven, Coyote, the Crow Girls, Joseph Crazy Dog, Christiana Tree, the assembled animal clans... they're all here in what promises to be the biggest showdown in Newford's long and storied history. But at the very center of it all remains a love story almost two decades in the consummation.

There are few authors I enjoy as much as de Lint. There are even fewer who truly symbolize urban fantasy. And of those, de Lint is one of the masters at weaving believable characters in with a tangibly modern setting and lacing all of that with music and magic. At one point, it looked like The Onion Girl, the book that looked into Jilly Coppercorn's past and present, was sort of his coda to the current cast of characters in Newford. If so, then Widdershins is their much-deserved epilogue, as close to "happily ever after" as one can expect from people whose lives are infested by magic.

At one point, I complained that it seemed like everyone in Newford had supernatural experiences, and that as a result, some of the mystery was lost. I'm happy to say that Widdershins erased that complaint for me, by explaining why that was as simply as possible. First off, Newford is a place where the barriers between the worlds are weak, therefore more beings are there to begin with. And second, being touched by magic is contagious, therefore once you've seen one thing, you'll see more, and moreover, you'll run into others who've experienced it as well. If you want to believe, you will. If not, you don't and the evidence fades over time. Ultimately, what this means is that the mystery continues to be alive and well and ready for discovery. Consider that complaint retracted.

De Lint's assembled a rich cast of characters, and it's good to see long-time favorites such as Jilly and Geordie finally find happiness. (I'm honestly not spoiling anything by saying as much... the book promises and delivers.) I mean, what fan was truly satisfied when Jilly started dating that male nurse after her accident? He just didn't seem to fit. And as for Geordie, it's about time he grew up and started thinking about the future. As always, it's fun to see the other inhabitants of Newford, many of whom have had their brief moments to shine before becoming part of the ensemble once again. Joseph Crazy Dog really steals the show along the way, and as part of an erstwhile team along with Whiskey Jack (a canid) and Grey (a corvae) he helps to create a mismatched group in search of justice. I'd love to see Jack, Joe, and Grey again, though I'm not sure the world could take it.

The overarching plot is appropriately dramatic, full of storm and thunder and portent, but it's almost incidental to what Jilly and Geordie go through, which somehow seems appropriate. All these characters, running around, getting caught up in various problems, and yet there's no singular solution. That's somehow more satisfying than finding out one mastermind was behind everything. (Oh, he might be involved, but not that deeply.)

What it boils down to is that Widdershins is easily one of de Lint's best books, and one of his strongest offerings to date. While it's a little less stand-alone than some of his others -- it really helps to know more about Jilly and Geordie and their back story, which runs through a number of de Lint's short stories and into The Onion Girl, among other books -- it's an excellent, heartfelt read that delivers a satisfying conclusion. De Lint fans would be foolish to miss this book, and urban fantasy readers will find a lot to enjoy here.

Copyright © 2006 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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