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The Very Best of Charles de Lint
Charles de Lint
Tachyon, 432 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: Dreams Underfoot
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 Steven H Silver

The Very Best of Charles de Lint Any collection of stories that claims to be "the very best" is going to be subjective in nature. Charles de Lint attempted to get around that by asking his fans which of his stories were his very best to aid in the selection process. De Lint is savvy enough to realize that this process also has its weaknesses, especially since so many of his stories have been published in limited edition chapbooks or hard to acquire sources. To this end, he has selected some of his own favorites to flesh out the choices of his fans, resulting in The Very Best of Charles de Lint.

Charles de Lint was writing Urban Fantasy before that genre was infiltrated by vampires and gritty streets. His Urban Fantasy introduces a magical realism to the world, spirit magic seeping into the cement environments mankind has built and most of the stories selected for this volume reflect that interest. His urban fantasy is set in the vibrant city of Newford and its environs, which allows him to look at his magic in a variety of different neighborhoods and social strata, although de Lint does maintain a focus on Bohemian characters.

The very first piece in The Very Best of Charles de Lint, "In Which We Meet Jilly Coppercorn," is an excerpt from de Lint's story "Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair," and serves to introduce the reader to a character who not only recurs in many of de Lint's stories and novels, but also serves as a nexus for many of the relationships and magical occurrences throughout de Lint's oeuvre. While this introduction to the character isn't strictly necessary, it does provide a perfect start to the collection as a whole.

The Bohemians come out in stories like "Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery" and "The Fields Beyond the Fields," while "Pixie Pixels" look at the collision between those same artistic types, magic, and the new technology so many espouse. These are the stories that are the meat and potatoes of de Lint's worlds, drawing on his own artistic inclinations, for de Lint is not only an accomplished author, but a musician and artist as well.

Although many of the stories in this collection do fit into Newford, others stand on their own. "Into the Green" is a straight-forward high fantasy tale originally published in 1988 and eventually expanded to novel length. "Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood" is another fantasy that doesn't tie in directly to Newford, set instead in the same world as de Lint's novel Moonheart. "Many Worlds Are Born Tonight" is a tale of multiple worlds, similar to Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways," but ending with hope rather than despair.

While there are some of de Lint's stories that I enjoy more than some of the ones included in this book ("Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box," for example), de Lint and his readers' suggestions do allow the collection to live up to the hyperbole of the title. Perhaps the real concern is that a reader will stop after this book, figuring that these are the very best, when in reality, de Lint has many more stories which are well worth reading, many of which are collected in reasonably easy to acquire collections, and that doesn't even begin to tackle his novels.

Copyright © 2010 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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