Green Man Review:
De Lint has peopled The Little Country with musicians and filled it with music. All of this music serves as a complex yet clear harmony for a fast-moving, exciting story. The story rollicks back and forth between two separate plot lines that interweave in a tight polyphony before resolving into one joined, deeply satisfying "Coda." Devoted de Lint fans and first-time readers alike will find The Little Country a resoundingly good read.
The story begins with a professional "small pipe" player, Janey Little. In her grandfather's attic, Janey finds hidden a book written by her grandfather's old friend, author William Dunthorn. When she looks more closely at the book, entitled The Little Country, she notices that it has been published in an edition of only one copy. As Janey begins to unravel the mystery behind this secret book, strange things start to happen in her life and the lives of her family and friends in the small Cornish town of Mousehole. Why does someone break into the house in an attempt to steal the book? And why are the book's contents different for each person who opens its covers? Dunthorn believed that music holds a key to hidden realms and states of mind. Could he have secreted that key somehow within the pages of his last book? Does that secret have something to do with the elusive tune that Janey begins to hear around corners and in her dreams?
Weaving in and out of Janey's story is the story of Jodi Shepherd, the protagonist of William Dunthorn's secret book - at least in the version of the book that Janey is reading. Jodi must defeat the malignant Widow Pender and uncover the secret of a legendary race of tiny people, the Smalls, in order to preserve the memory and sense of magic in our increasingly rational and mechanized world. Janey's and Jodi's lives grow more and more intertwined, even though they never actually meet each other. In the end, each helps to save Life's mystery, its "first music."
From The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, 1991:
Charles de Lint's masterwork, The Little Country, must stand as the finest novel of fantasy in 1990. De Lint's career can no longer be described as promising; he has arrived.
From Locus Magazine, January 1991:
This is a beautiful book, filled with the magic of music and the warmth of friendship. The style is perfectly suited to the material, the plot threads expertly woven and the mounting tension sustained… The magic of books and music has rarely been as effectively conveyed in fantasy.
From The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1991:
Charles de Lint is the best of the post-King fantasists, the one with the clearest vision of the possibilities of magic in a modern setting. …in The Little Country he never goes over the edge into preciousness or self-indulgence. This book sings.
From The Independent Artists' Review, 1991:
What I like most about de Lint's work (and in particular The Little Country) is his talent for making ordinary settings like Cornwall or downtown Ottawa come alive. After reading de Lint, I start hearing music down side streets, and revel in rooting through a second-hand book store. De Lint makes us appreciate the beauty of what we have.
From Los Angeles Times, February 1991:
In a genre choking to death on regurgitated Tolkien, de Lint does research and imbues his story with an unusual, authentic atmosphere. In a genre of elaborately mapped Neverlands, de Lint sets his tale in our contemporary world and makes it not less magical. And in a genre plagued by automatons acting out Joseph Campbell's theories, de Lint develops complex characters and original plots.