Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bite-Sized Bits of Urban Fantasy

While this is the 12th book in the Newford world, it is certainly accessible to first time readers of Charles de Lint's work.  While there are no real spoilers that I could tell, there may be some that I missed, so be warned.  Otherwise, read on.

Sometimes, authors are called the father of a particular genre for reasons not tied to their actual writing quality.  Some authors play the Writers Guild politics games perfectly.  Others catch the eye of the critics before others of the genre have a chance to break into the mainstream.  And, of course, there is the simple bonus of fantastic marketing as well.

None of these reasons is why Charles de Lint is the grandfather of urban fantasy.  I hadn’t heard of him until I actively started looking for new fantasy authors to try, but now I’m glad I did.

Although I’ve never been a fan of short story collections, what makes this one wonderful is that they all take place in the and around the city of Newford.  Newford is the quintessential “everycity” with a downtown business district, slums, and a large rural area surrounding it.  Because there is such a diversity available in the city, it’s the perfect place for our cast of recurring characters to live.

Although no prior knowledge of de Lint’s work is necessary to read this collection, the more of his books you’ve read, the more of the characters from his other stories you’ll recognize.  The author Christie and the Crow Girls are personal favorites, but many others weave their ways in and out of their stories and the lives of their neighbors in town.

Not every story here will appeal to every reader.  While de Lint is known mainly for urban fantasy, “Masking Indian” is a fairly straightforward ghost story.  It’s a very well-written ghost story, mind you, but it really doesn’t fall into the genre of fantasy very well.  Most of the stories here do involve both the fantasy and the urban quite literally.  We have a search-engine-gone-sentient, a dream world brought to reality, and an oak tree that thrives on the heart stories that it’s told.

That’s the magic of Newford.  As rough a city as it is, there are still places within that roughness for the beauty of humanity to shine through.  So if you’re looking for well-written fantasy with plenty of reality and folklore added in, take a stop at the dream tree.

Highs:  The not-quite-innocent goodness of Jenny is a wonderful counterpoint to the darkness of some of the other characters

Lows:  The ghost stories, especially "Masking Indian" just don't seem to fit well here

Verdict:  Fantastic, bite-sized chunks to read before bed or on a lunch break

Further Reading: Little (Grrl) LostThe Painted Boy

No comments:

Post a Comment