Tag Archives: Charles de Lint

The Mystery of Grace

Author: Charles de Lintthe-mystery-of-grace

My rating: 4 of 5

Grace has always followed her own path–or followed in her Abuelo’s in any case–what with her tattoos and rockabilly and her passion for hot-rodding old cars. Not what her mother would have wanted for her, perhaps, but it suits Grace just fine. Well, it did, until she happened to get herself killed–wrong place, wrong time. Which is when she found that those who die in said place, in the few blocks around the Alverson Arms apartment building, don’t move on like they’re supposed to. They become trapped in this strange afterlife world consisting of those few blocks. But unlike most of the people in this Alverson Arms world, Grace isn’t content to just “sleep” or fall into an endless routine. Especially after she goes back to the world of the living on Halloween–one of two nights each year when the boundaries are thinnest–and meets (and falls badly for) John, just a couple weeks too late.

I firmly believe that Charles de Lint is one of the best writers of urban fantasy out there, and I would highly recommend any of his books. The Mystery of Grace is no exception. It carries the feel and mechanics of his Newford books, but places the story in the Southwest–and he does a great job of incorporating the people, the culture, and the feel of that area into the story seamlessly. The whole concept of the story is really interesting, also, as is the way in which the reader gradually finds out more about what’s really going on. I really enjoyed the characters, especially Grace–and it wasn’t so much that I especially liked her, although I did, as just that she was so much herself, so complete and complex a character, that she was a joy to read. I really appreciated all the detail that de Lint casually scattered in to enhance her character. John was interesting as well, although I didn’t enjoy his chapters nearly as much as I enjoyed Grace’s. I did like the way the chapters switched perspectives back and forth though. And I loved that, while this is an a sense a “love story,” it wasn’t a mushy romance at all–it’s not chick-flick-y at all. What it is is unique and passionate and creative and thought-provoking and slightly creepy at parts. I would definitely recommend The Mystery of Grace, especially to those who like a good urban fantasy or ghost story.

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Werewolves

Edited by Jane Yolen & Martin H. GreenbergWerewolves

My rating: 3.5 of 5

They’re mysterious creatures of the night, weaving their way into legend. They’re magic, the freedom to run wild, unchecked by human bonds. Perhaps they’re also a picture of deep, intrinsic fears . . . of finding you suddenly don’t know someone who was once close to you, or of realizing you don’t know yourself anymore. Whatever the case, werewolves are certainly excellent story-telling material, and the authors in this short-story collection have made the most of the draw of this mysterious creature.

Jane Yolen and Martin Greenberg have always had my respect for being able to pull together excellent short-story collections, and  Werewolves is no exception. Although I wasn’t familiar with many of the authors in this collection, I found the writing to be consistently interesting and enjoyable–particularly notable since some of these stories are the first published works of the authors. (Bonus points to Yolen and Greenberg for including a Charles de Lint story in the collection; he’s one of my absolute favorite urban fantasy authors, and his treatment of the werewolf theme is excellent.) And while I would generally prefer to read a collection with a bit more variety (like Dragons & Dreams, for instance), over a collection entirely focused on one creature, I found there to be a pleasant mix of stories in this volume. There’s everything from dystopian science fiction to historical fiction with a fantasy twist (actually, there’s a wide variety just within this sort of story) to more contemporary slice-of-life stories. I think I particularly enjoyed the takes on historical events with a focus on werewolves–somehow, the authors threw human prejudices against each other into a clearer light in these stories. I do think that Werewolves is an interesting collection of short stories, most recommended for those who enjoy (surprise) short stories and stories about werewolves–it’s probably a bit too much of a good thing if you’re not already interested in the theme, I’d say.

Featured Authors: Debra Doyle, J. D. Macdonald, Ru Emerson, Leigh Ann Hussey, Harry Turtledove, Mary K. Whittington, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Elizabeth Scarborough, Sherwood Smith, Bruce Coville, Marguerite W. Davol, Jane Yolen, Susan Shwartz, Anne E. Crompton, Esther M. Friesner, & Charles de Lint

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Seven Wild Sisters

Author: Charles De Lintseven wild sisters

Illustrator: Charles Vess

My rating: 5 of 5

Sarah Jane loves going up to Aunt Lillian’s place up the mountain, helping her with chores and hearing all her stories about the fairy folk–the Apple Tree man, the Father of Cats, and many others. It’s not as though she entirely believes in these stories, but they’re certainly interesting. Then one day, as she’s going out to gather ginseng for Aunt Lillian, she encounters a tiny man, seemingly made of sticks and bits of debris–a little man shot through with hundreds of tiny arrows. Feeling she has to help him, she carries the wounded fairy back to Aunt Lillian’s . . . little knowing that by doing so she is involving herself and her six sisters in a world–and a war–she knows almost nothing about.

I’ve been a fan of Charles De Lint’s books for quite a while, mostly his amazing urban fantasies like The Painted Boy and Spirits in the Wires. I’ve never really read any of his children’s books, so Seven Wild Sisters was a fun new experience for me. While it is definitely a good read for kids (mostly leaving out stuff like sex and language), it carries through with all the best things that make me love De Lint’s writing: a vivid world, interesting and unusual characters, folk music, animals. And of course, the whole venture into the other world–written in a way that is quite consistent with how he writes it in his other volumes, but with a lot of local Appalachian flavor. I really love how the spirits and fairies are unique to the locality, as well as how the characters themselves are so full of the color of their home and the mountains. Plus, the book is rich with Charles Vess’s gorgeous illustrations; you could seriously read this book just for the pictures! I would highly recommend Seven Wild Sisters, especially to those who love a good fairy tale or urban fantasy.

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Dragons & Dreams

Editors: Jane Yolen, Martin H. Greenberg, & Charles G. Waugh

Authors: Bruce Coville, Sharon Webb, Patricia A. McKillip, Patricia MacLachlan, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Diana Wynne Jones, Monica Hughes, & Diane Duane

Offered: One token to ride the New York subway system into realms unknown but strangely familiar. Also, one pass to see behind the scenes in the top-selling dreams of a young icon. Or perhaps you’d prefer a seat in the circle while Great-Grandfather Dragon tells the true story of St. George. Whatever you prefer, the offer is there–to dream and wonder.

Dragons & Dreams is a delightful collection of original short fictions by some of my favorite authors. What more need be said? The stories are wonderful and imaginative. Some of them tie in to other larger bodies of work, but all can be read individually with great enjoyment. I particularly love Yolen’s small novella retelling of St. George and the Dragon–it’s really a perfect rendition of the story. And it’s fun to see fantasy works by authors I typically associate with more “real life” genres–MacLachlan and Snyder in particular. Dragons & Dreams is a solid fantasy short story collection (every story is a gem), and I highly recommend reading it!

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The Painted Boy

Author: Charles de Lint

When he was only eleven, a large dragon image–like a multicolored tattoo–appeared on Jay Li’s back all by himself. At that time, his grandmother PauPau told him it showed that he bore the family heritage of the Yellow Dragon Clan, and she embarked on a mission to train him in all sorts of rules, exercises, and meditations . . . without ever really explaining why or what’s really happening to him. Now at the age of seventeen, he finds himself sent out on his own to find a place that “feels right,” which ends him up in Santo del Vado Viejo, Arizona, a city build straight on top of the desert . . . a city rife with gang violence and drug trafficking. Still, Jay finds a place for himself there, making friends (a first for him) and working in a small Mexican restaurant; however,  he finds himself still plagued by the whole dragon thing and trying to figure out what it means . . . especially since he has a niggling feeling that it might be more than some “spiritual heritage” or something, that it might be more literal than most people could imagine.

In The Painted Boy, Charles de Lint does what he does best, in my opinion: crafts an intricate urban fantasy that is both exciting and relevant to issues most people deal with frequently. I would consider him the number one master of urban fantasy–he writes with brilliant imagination, broad-reaching allusion, and a skillful perspective of how fantasy and legend fit into a modern context. I love the regional flavor that permeates many of his books, this one included; the natural setting, wildlife, culture, weather, everything ties in to the story and has influence on the characters. The characters themselves are wonderful–full of life and personality, uncertainties, struggles, and a flood of human emotion. It’s a joy to see growth and change in them throughout the story. Finally, I appreciate the balance de Lint brings while weaving together many seemingly-divergent pieces: the gang problems in the barrio, the relatively small (but personally huge) complexities of individual relationships, the whole huge fantasy element (which is huge), they all work together brilliantly. I definitely recommend The Painted Boy, particularly to those who enjoy a solid urban fantasy, but really to anyone who enjoys a good coming-of-age novel also.

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