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GUEST REVIEW: The Little Country by Charles de Lint

Dear Readers:

This is the book that cemented my love for the urban fantasy genre and, in particular, my love for Charles de Lint. Book CoverThis man is a master storyteller, who infuses his stories with lifelike characters, evocative settings, and a sense of wonder that I think is sometimes too often missing in a lot of fantasy.

We first meet Janey Little, a Celtic musician who has returned to Mousewhole (pronounced Mouzel) in Cornwall to spend some time with her grandfather, known to everyone as the Gaffer, who practically raised her. Janey’s career is going fairly well, except she needs a new side man as her last one hasn’t worked out, but she’s not going to worry about that. Instead, she goes up to the Gaffer’s attic and starts looking through old papers, and finds what seems to be a new novel by a friend of the Gaffer’s, an eccentric writer named William Dunthorn. This novel, however, was only published in an edition of one copy. Delighted, Janey starts to read, and we, the readers, are brought along with her for the story within the story.

Dunthorn’s novel features Jodi Shepherd, an orphan raised by her aunt who owns the town brothel, in the village of Bodbury, which is also somewhere in Cornwall, although Bodbury comes directly from de Lint’s imagination. Jodi’s bored with her own lot in life, most of which involves cleaning up after the animals in the shop of the inventor Denzil Gossip. So when a rumor starts among the Tatters Children, a group of local waifs who basically run wild, that the Widow Pender, reputed to be a witch, is keeping a Small in her house, Jodi has to break in.

Once these events are set in motion–Janey’s opening the book and Jodi entering the world of the Widow Pender, things won’t be the same for either woman. There is danger, intrigue, even a bit of romance for both of them.

De Lint weaves the story within a story wonderfully. He can also juggle a huge cast of characters and their multiple viewpoints with real aplomb. And while there’s always action happening, he knows exactly when to pull back and allow for some quiet moments. But when
the climax comes–and it happens at the same time in both stories–the tension really ratchets up.

I mentioned above that I love the wonder with which de Lint infuses his stories. He transported me to a place where magic was very much real, where a witch or her fetch could come upon anyone unawares and cast spells on them, where dead men talk and Smalls–tiny, magical beings–are very much alive. And that’s just in Jodi’s story. The thing that captivated me about Janey’s story was the sense of place.

It’s obvious De Lint has been to Mousewhole, because his descriptions are evocative. And the music. I loved that music was a huge part of everyone’s life, whether it be playing music, listening to it, or singing it. The inherent magic in music is a theme de Lint uses often, and it’s one of my favorites. And I am fairly certain I would not be the lover of Celtic music that I am if it weren’t for Janey and company. And, this being a romance blog, I have to mention that
the second time around love story between Janey and Felix, a sailor she’s known for years, is among my top romances ever as it’s very poignant and well-done.

In conclusion, this is a wonderful fantasy novel. You get two books for the price of one, and two extremely entertaining stories at that.

Highly recommended!

~Shannon C

This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format (ereader format only).

This is part of Dear Author’s “Favorite Things” series. Please consider contributing a letter about your favorite book.

Guest Reviewer

8 Comments

  1. Marg
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 06:08:39

    This is the only de Lint book I have read, and I really enjoyed it! I have always meant to read more, but I haven’t done it yet! One day!

  2. Jan
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 13:16:27

    Janey Little, LOL, I never noticed how close our Jane’s name was to this.

    I love this book! And most of his others. He’s one of the few authors that I go to the trouble of buying special editions of his work because I want them to last (Subterranean Press has good ones, though they’re often sold out).

    Another thing I really admire about him (aside from all you mentioned) is that he writes women so well. I always feel so close to his female characters.

    I also like how he fuses magic and realism from both sides. There’s always magic around the corner as you say, but he also tends not to take his feet from the real world. He is one of the original urban fantasy writers, and IMO one of the very best.

    Thanks for sharing your review. Last week’s made me re-read Beauty. This week’s has made me want to re-read this one. I’m having a lot of fun re-discovering old favorites.

  3. LinM
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 18:19:22

    This sounds so interesting and it is a deLint book that I haven’t read. His books have never converted me to Celtic music but I truly enjoy deLint’s love of music and his expression of that in his writing. I’ll have to look for this one.

  4. Shannon C.
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 19:40:00

    First of all, having seen my review posted up here has made my night. Thanks Jane!
    Marg, I always end up recommending either Moonheart or Someplace to be Flying for de Lint at his best. Both have romantic threads, and they’re both excellent fantasy stories in their own right.
    Jan, I didn’t even notice the Janey Little thing until you pointed that out. And I totally agree about de Lint’s writing female characters. Most of them are the kind of women I’d love to hang out with in real life. And I agree, de Lint’s definitely one of the best urban fantasy writers ever. The magic in his books always feels like it’s appropriate to the story, not just thrown in there because, hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we had werewolves right about now? And I agree, he’s good at making you think you can just sense the hidden magic around every corner.

  5. Sela Carsen
    Nov 13, 2007 @ 12:50:24

    I’ve only just started reading DeLint, but I’ll put this one on my To Buy list. His stories are very complex and are great for a really meaty, thought-provoking read.

  6. JulieB
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 16:19:39

    I haven’t ever posted, but read all the time. I had to chime in. I read Moonheart back a million years ago, and fell in love with the genre and the author. He introduced me to the all the legends so I feel we’re all on a first name basis. Charles de Lint is the standard I base all my other fantasy books on. I went to a reading of his a couple of years ago, and found, to my surprise, that the man matched the words. He’s warm and earthy, and a delight to listen to.

    If someone is looking to break into the Urban Fantasy genre, his books are the portal. Go. Read. Be amazed.

    (okay, I’m a little obsessed. But there are worse obsessions)…..

  7. Flight into Fantasy » Blog Archive » Link whoring
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 13:18:27

    [...] of all, my guest review for Dear Author has been posted. Go forth and read [...]

  8. Jayne
    Jun 14, 2008 @ 08:08:48

    I’m closing the comments as this post is being spammed quite a bit.

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