Charles de Lint,
The Harp of the Grey Rose
(1984; Avon, 1991; Subterranean Press, 2006)

It is always interesting to go back after several years and reread a favorite author's earlier works. One can get a sense of the evolution of the author as a writer and how his skill has been honed over the years. In this case, the author is Charles de Lint and the book is The Harp of the Grey Rose.

Cerin first saw the Maid of the Grey Rose in the marketplace of Wran Cheaping, the town near where he lives with his foster mother Tess Kelledy. No one else appeared to have noticed the beguiling maid with the grey rose in her hair. Cerin encounters her again in the woods and that chance meeting leads to a summer friendship that deepened into love.

But the Maid has enemies and they soon come to claim her. For the love he bears her, Cerin vows to travel to the dread city of Banlore and rescue the Maid from Yarac Stone-slayer, the dark being who is her betrothed. On his journey, he meets the loremaster Hickathrift Trummel who travels with him.

But Banlore is not the end of Cerin's journey; it is only the beginning, for Yarac is only the first of the dark beings known as the Daketh to come into the world. There is another, and she is far more dangerous. And it is up to Cerin and the Maid of the Grey Rose to defeat her.

Charles de Lint is best known for his novels of urban fantasy, or what has come to be called mythic fiction. Only a few of his novels are set in the high fantasy style as this one is. It seems that in this case, at least, the former style is much more suited to his talents.

The Harp of the Grey Rose was plainly written when de Lint was yet a young writer. It has several standard high fantasy elements, including the young fool who becomes a hero, the damsel in distress, the stone-working dwarf and the quest to defeat the great evil creature. It is a pleasant -- but almost generic -- fantasy, neither ground-shaking nor trail-blazing. It is certainly worth picking up if you come across it in a second hand store or library book sale, but don't spend hours searching for it.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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