Mulengro: A Romany Tale
Charles de Lint
Tor, 2003 (1985)
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
hough I read
when it was originally released in the 1980s, I had forgotten how good it is. It's different than Charles de Lint's usual offerings in that, though it deals as usual with outcasts of society, there is a strong element of bloodthirsty horror in this Romany tale.
t opens on Janfri '
' Yayal watching his house burn down. When he notices the '
' sign (for gypsies who are ostracized by their kind) on a wall, he walks off into the night. Like many others of his kind, Janfri has made lifestyle compromises to live in the
world, but has kept to the core Romany values. But someone has enlisted the supernatural to his aid in order to kill those gypsies he considers
, unclean. Old Lyuba, the wise woman of the
to which Janfri owes allegiance, gives him the task of dealing with this serial killer, whom she names '
', the scarred '
man who walks with ghosts
'. Lyuba tells Janfri to seek a woman of the Rom with the true '
la is this witch. She lives in an isolated spot with her talking cat Boboko. To make a living, Ola writes books on folklore and herbs with a
partner, Jeff. When two redneck brothers attack her, she defends herself with magic, but the consequences cause Ola and Boboko (who plays a significant role) to flee, pursued by both living and dead. They end up at an isolated cottage in the woods, where ex-hippie Mr.
Rainbow offers refuge, healing and '
'. Everyone converges on this spot - Boshengro and his
, Jeff and a waitress friend, two police officers investigating the murders, the Romany
... and Mulengro with his train of ghosts. It's a desperate, violent confrontation between good and evil that takes a heavy toll.
is excellent as a horror story - enriched by Romany lore, and just enough history of the region (around Ottawa, Canada) to add depth without slowing the story. Charles de Lint adds an interesting Afterword on the Rom, followed by an Addendum (unique to this edition) that speaks against criticisms of '
' and argues sensibly for the use of a large, culturally rich '
' - an intriguing extra.
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