The Very Best of Charles de Lint: Truly Charles de Lint’s very best

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews The Very Best of Charles de LintThe Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint

With a title like The Very Best of Charles de Lint, I had high hopes, and I have to say that they were met. Yes, this is the best of Charles de Lint’s fantasy. Chosen in consultation with his readers on Facebook and on his website, de Lint has culled down decades of writing to create a special volume with beautiful cover art by Charles Vess that highlights the reason why de Lint is considered one of the founding fathers of urban fantasy. I have been reading de Lint for close to two decades now, and am quite the completionist. I buy chapbooks and limited editions, and keep them in slip covers. With a background like that, I consider myself well qualified to judge if this is indeed the best of his writing. And, with the caveat that he is pulling from his short stories, because it’s difficult to anthologize his longer novels in this kind of a volume, he has done an excellent job of not only selecting his best writing, but doing so in a way that showcases the many types of storytelling he has done over the years.

The Very Best of Charles de Lint starts with his older, lesser known work that is in a more traditional vein, with harpers and fairy maidens in a Celtic-type setting. Using the characters of Cerin and Meran from those tales, he transitions to their setting in modern Newford, a fictional North American city that is the site for most of his better known novels and short story collections. Every character and setting that I had hoped to see again was included in this volume. We meet Jilly and Sophie, Angel, Geordie, Christie, Saskia and the gemmin. We visit Tamson House, Crowsea Street, Mr. Truepenny’s Emporium and the Tombs. He skillfully interweaves European and Native American mythic traditions with a modern setting and applies the archetypical figures of those traditions to create new mythological creatures at home in urban surroundings. The reader finds magic in the characters, in the surroundings, and in the very prose, as de Lint imparts to his readers a new way of looking at the world out of the corner of your eye to see the magic that lurks in abandoned cars and in abandoned people.

Reading The Very Best of Charles de Lint was something I tried to stretch out, to savor each word as it unfolded on the page. What ended up happening was I sat down to read one story, and as that story ended I would look to the next page to see what story was coming up and would get drawn into the next tale. Lather, rinse, repeat, and I sped through The Very Best of Charles de Lint without noticing the passage of time. It was remarkably like a reunion of old friends and family, where everyone knows each other intimately, and you just sit down and chat and catch up and hours pass before you know it.

I haven’t always loved de Lint’s later work, but this volume reminded me why, when asked to list my favorite authors, he is always in my top five recommendations. When he is on his A-game, no one can do it better than de Lint. And The Very Best of Charles de Lint truly is Charles de Lint at his very best.

The Very Best of Charles de Lint — (2010) Publisher: At turns whimsical, dark, and mystical, this extraordinary collection of retold fairy tales and new, modern myths redefine the boundaries of magic. Compiling favored stories suggested by the author and his fans, this delightful treasury contains the most esteemed and beloved selections that de Lint has to offer. Innovative characters in unexpected places are the key to each plot: playful Crow Girls who sneak into the homes of their sleeping neighbors; a graffiti artist who risks everything to expose a long-standing conspiracy; a half-human girl who must choosebetween her village and her strange birthright; and an unrepentant trickster who throws one last party to reveal a folkloric tradition. Showcasing some of the finest offerings within the realms of urban fantasy and magical realism, this essential compendium of timeless tales will charm and inspire.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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