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Waifs and Strays    by Charles de Lint order for
Waifs and Strays
by Charles de Lint
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Waifs and Strays is a collection of sixteen de Lint stories about teenagers dealing with tough issues, and also a panoramic picture of his work over time, ranging from tales set in Tamson House to those located in Bordertown and in Newford. The author's background notes on each of them are interesting in themselves both for fans and for newcomers to his mythic fantasy.

I've always loved stories set in the rambling, ever surprising Tamson House, and Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood is typical of their gentle magic. Then the first tale of Appoline (Apples) and her asthmatic sister Cassie is a fun Buffy take-off, but the second one takes on more serious issues around the decision to become a vampire. The consequences of catching a fairy in a bug jar are addressed in Fairy Dust; a troubled teen gets some excellent advice and Wooden Bones from a fiddling rabbit; and A Wish Named Arnold is an utterly delightful story about a gloomy kind of genie acquired through the purchase of a brass egg in an antique shop.

Many of the author's protagonists are outcasts, and one of the most touching is orphaned Tetchie, born of a human mother and trow (similar to troll) father. In The Graceless Child she unleashes nightmares by trusting a stranger, and later makes a sacrifice to save the same community that has reviled her. A Tattoo on Her Heart is a rare (for the author) futuristic tale of how society's outcasts keep their humanity. Then there are two Bordertown (between the elvish and human worlds) stories, the first of which, Stick, has a bit of a Wild West flavor, enlivened by music. In the other, a lonely girl connects to a lonely gargoyle.

Finally we end up in Newford, where those who can see, find magic all around them. The first two are about Susanna, whose differences give her strength. There are two tales (including the title story Waifs and Strays) of Maisie, who 'broke the only pair of rose-colored glasses I had the chance to own a long time ago', and her odd, adopted family of stray dogs and child-man Tommy. There's Ghost of Wind and Shadow about a girl who runs away from a mother who can't cope with the magic in her genes, and Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box shows us the proximity of art and magic.

Although these stories are about teens, they will be appreciated by fans of all ages. I especially enjoyed revisiting Tamson House and meeting old friends again in all Charles de Lint's magical worlds.

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