Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Mystery of de Lint

Charles de Lint; The Mystery of Grace (Tor Books; 2009; ISBN 978-0-7653-1756-8; cover by John Jude Palencar).

Charles de Lint; The Wild Wood (Tor Books; 2001; ISBN 0-765-30381-7; cover by John Jude Palencar).

Charles de Lint is an author that I've seen in bookstores, I've read and heard interviews with, but was somebody that I had never read. I can't really pin a reason...a large pile of unread books plus another author, a ongoing series that I was not sure where to start with, the fact that fantasy does not interest me as much as science fiction...all of these played into the lack of purchase and reading.

However, earlier this year The Mystery of Grace appeared on the shelves of the local big box. The cover (fantastic artwork by John Jude Palencar) interested me, I picked up the book and read the blurbs. Since it appeared to be a standalone, and not part of his loose Newford series, I decided to give it a chance.

And then went back to the store a day or so later and bought every single title by this author that I could find.

Now that is a strong endorsement. This is not a perfect book, I have some quibbles, but it was a darned fine read. The story revolves around Grace, a woman with extensive tattoos, grease under her fingernails from working at the local body and fender shop and a nagging addiction to cigarettes that kills coincidence.

After she dies, she wakes up in what appears to be the town she lived in. There are even people there, of sorts. Some appear alive, some appear to be in a comatose state. Those that appear to be alive, however, vary by era. Some are from the time when Grace died, some from the past. When she explores the town, she finds a couple of strange dead zones, including part of one building and a mysterious fog that surrounds the town.

Complications (as if "life" were not complicated enough) arise when she finds that once a year she can cross the bridge back into our reality. While there, she meets a man and makes a strong enough impression on him that he then tries to solve the mystery of where she has gone to when he wakes up the morning after they meet and finds her gone.

He makes an impression on her as well and she waits for the calendar to turn around again to the day when she can again cross that bridge only to make a sad discovery.

The mystery deepens around the dead zones. Grace makes a few probes and attacks and eventually brings everything to a head...if there is any weakness to the book, it is in the final confrontation with the power that has created this shade, things were built to a certain level and the author did not deliver.

But...still a very, very, very satisfying read and as can be seen by my subsequent purchases, I was impressed enough with the book to want more. Highly recommended.

After reading The Mystery of Grace, I then picked up The Wild Wood. About the only similarity between the two are that both have strong female characters and both might be termed "fantasy" or "horror" or even that much-touted "magical realism". The book revolves around Eithinie, a painter that has gone to a cabin in the wilds of Canada to try and get her creativity back. While there she makes contact with a primal force that is connected with her childhood. A much shorter read than The Mystery of Grace, I enjoyed it almost as much. Also highly recommended.

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