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The Dreaming Place    by Charles de Lint order for
Dreaming Place
by Charles de Lint
Order:  USA  Can
Firebird, 2002 (1990)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I remember being enthralled by this very satisfying story when it was originally published in 1990. Charles de Lint was one of the first to write urban fantasy, which has since developed into a popular sub-genre, and The Dreaming Place is one of the early gems.

Nina's life is pretty good. She's an A student with loving, easygoing ex-hippie parents. The only fly in the ointment is her weird cousin Ash, who has joined their family after her own mother's death and her father's subsequent rejection of her. Ashley Enys appears to be Nina's opposite. She's always angry, skips school, has attitude in spades, and does poorly academically as a result.

At first Nina blames Ash for the nightmares, convinced that her cousin is a witch who is hexing her. Nina dreams that she is embodied in small creatures, like a rabbit and a wolf. She is hunted and killed in each nightmare. Someone is indeed stalking Nina, but it's not her cousin Ashley. And it's not even Alver, the feral young man who reluctantly attacks her with a knife; it's Ya-wau-tse, a much more powerful spirit.

Ash finds out from her friend Cassie, a street person who reads magic cards, of Nina's danger and her own role in it. Through Cassie and the Indian Bones, Ash is drawn into the spirit world 'where the manitou live'. There she soon loses her companions but gains help and guidance from the mysterious Lusewen.

Ultimately Ash's willingness to sacrifice resolves matters. In walking the spirit-world, Ash and Nina each gain a sister; Nina finds her totem and Ash sees that she has a future.

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