Charles de Lint
Tor, 2006 (2006)
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
harles de Lint is a past master of gritty urban fantasy, his series set in fictional Newford being amongst his most popular books and Jilly Coppercorn his most beloved heroine. In
The Onion Girl
, Jilly became the '
', after being hit by a car. She awoke from a coma half paralysed, with a long, hard road to recovery. Jilly's accident gave her access to the otherworld, where she had to peel back her
layers and deal with a childhood of abuse before her body's hurts could heal.
ow Jilly can hobble around for some of the time and uses a wheelchair for the rest. She's coping well but she isn't able to paint as she used to and misses her creative life. It seems that she can't heal fully till she deals with a deep core of past darkness - which, of course, she confronts in this episode in her life. As well as Jilly, we get to spend time with other familiar Newford folk in
- Jilly's best friend Geordie Riddell (though meant for each other, they're afraid to compromise their strong friendship), Geordie's fairy lover '
' Galfreya, his brother Christy, Christy's tough otherworldly shadow Christiana, Whiskey Jack, the unpredictable Joe Crazy Dog, and abused pit bull Honey. New characters play strong parts too, in particular a group of musicians including feisty fiddlers Lizzie Mahone and her cousin Siobhan.
t all starts with Lizzie. When her car breaks down, she encounters a gang of
, malicious fairy folk who have just killed and butchered a Native American spirit, a gentle
(deer woman) named Anwatan. After being helped by another spirit, a
named Grey, Lizzie plays a lament for the remains and so earns the friendship of Anwatan's father Walker. A conflict between the fairy folk (brought to the continent by European settlers) and native spirits is escalated by the manipulations of blind Odawa, who has an old score to settle with Grey. The bogans kidnap Lizzie into the dreamlands, and Jilly ends up there too, in a closed world made out of her worst childhood nightmares, and where her pedophile brother is all powerful. While Jilly struggles with the horrors of her past, powerful friends try to find her and to stop full-scale war between fairies and native spirits.
f course, it all comes right eventually, though not easily. The author speaks through his characters when Jilly muses on her art - '
I'd always seen the creative process as a conversation. Music needed listeners. Books needed readers. Art needed viewers.
' And Lizzie speaks for de Lint fans when she acknowledges her new '
realization that anything could happen. That there were possibilities upon possibilities lying just at everybody's fingertips.
' Charles de Lint is at the top of his game in
for fantasy fans and an absolute joy for those who've followed the Newford saga.
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