Charles de Lint's urban fantasies, including Moonheart, Forests of the Heart, and The Onion Girl, have earned him a devoted following and critical acclaim as a master of contemporary magical fiction. At the heart of his work is the ongoing ""Newford"" series, of which this is the latest volume. The city of Newford could be any contemporary North American city... except that magic lurks in its music, in its art, in the shadows of its grittiest streets where mythic beings walk disguised. And its people are like you and me, each looking for a bit of magic to shape their lives and transform their fate. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
When de Lint's magic is working, his characters shine with folksy charisma (The Onion Girl; Moonheart), but a preponderance of the 18 stories in this collection have the familiar denizens of fictional Newford wandering passively through their own tales. The better yarns have the protagonists taking an active role in earning their magical rewards, as in "Granny Weather," in which Sophie saves her boyfriend, Jeck, by using lucid dreaming, personal sacrifice and good sense. However, many of the stories unfold with little drama or conflict. "Ten for the Devil" rambles from field to barroom and back, until the devil is finally foiled by kindness; while in "Big City Littles" and "Second Chances," the right mystical word spoken by Meran Kelledy immediately fixes things. Then there's de Lint's bias against ugly men and petty thieves. Without the mitigating love of a good woman, these men are punished ("Freak," "The Witching Hour"), sometimes even after death. Pretty girls, however, can do no wrong. All the female denizens of Newford appear to have artistic gifts. Just a modicum of good manners and a little spunk earns most of these ladies rich rewards ("Masking Indian," "Trading Hearts at the Half Kaffe Caf," "Seven Wild Sisters"). While some of de Lint's niftier conceits are well utilized, such as the faerie realm created by lucid dreaming, more is to be expected from this World Fantasy Award-winning author than this collection of hazy, lazy tales. (Nov. 14) FYI: "Seven Wild Sisters" was published earlier this year by Subterranean as a separate book, with illustrations by Charles Vess (Forecasts, Feb. 18). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 30, 2003
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Excerpt from Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint
Ten for the Devil
"Are you sure you want off here?"
"Here" was in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt county road somewhere between Tyson and Highway 14. Driving along this twisty back road, Butch Crickman's pickup hadn't passed a single house for the last mile and a half. If he kept on going, he wouldn't pass another one for at least a mile or so, except for the ruin of the old Lindy farm and that didn't count, seeing as how no one had lived there since the place burned down ten years ago.
Staley smiled. "Don't you worry yourself, Butch."
"Yeah, but -- "
Opening the passenger door, she jumped down onto the dirt, then leaned back inside to grab her fiddle case.
"This is perfect," she told him. "Really."
"I don't know. Kate's not going to be happy when she finds out I didn't take you all the way home."
Staley took a deep breath of the clean night air. On her side of the road it was all Kickaha land. She could smell the raspberry bushes choking the ditches close at hand, the weeds and scrub trees out in the field, the dark rich scent of the forest beyond it. Up above, the stars seemed so close you'd think they were leaning down to listen to her conversation with Butch. Somewhere off in the distance, she heard a long, mournful howl. Wolf. Maybe coyote.
"This is home," she said. Closing the door, she added through the window, "Thanks for the ride."
Butch hesitated a moment longer, then sighed and gave her a nod. Staley stepped back from the pickup. She waited until he'd turned the vehicle around and started back, waited until all she could see was the red glimmer of his taillights through a thinning cloud of dust, before she knelt down and took out her fiddle and bow. She slung the case over her shoulder by its strap so that it hung across her back. Hoisting the fiddle and bow up above her shoulders, she pushed her way through the raspberry bushes, moving slowly and patiently so that the thorns didn't snag on her denim overalls.