Charles de Lint,
The Ivory & the Horn
(Tor, 1995)

When I read my first Charles de Lint novel, the genre was still known as urban fantasy. New authors have recently entered the field and the term has changed to mythic fiction, but one fact remains the same: no matter what it's called, Charles de Lint is the master of his field.

The Ivory & the Horn is de Lint's second collection of short stories set in the fictional city of Newford. Readers familiar with de Lint's first collection, Dreams Underfoot, will recognize many familiar faces from Newford in this collection: Jilly Coppercorn, Georgie and Christy Riddell, and Sophie Etoile among them. However, instead of focusing on characters we already know, de Lint moves on to new characters and new stories.

Despite the fact that each story exists in the same city with the same background cast of characters, none of the tales repeat themselves. Although many of the stories touch on issues that de Lint feels strongly about (child abuse and family seem to be two of the most frequent), none are redundant. "Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery" and "Where Desert Spirits Crowd the Night" take us into Sophie Etoile's dream world -- a world where dream mirrors reality so closely that the two become interchangeable. "Bird Bones and Wood Ash" introduces us to a woman who sets out to avenge abused children -- not your average superhero, by any means -- while "The Pochade Box" is a story within a story.

De Lint seamlessly meshes myth and magic with the everyday events of Newford. The magic itself seems an integral part of Newford; rather than seeing Coyote or the Bone Woman as something straight out of the Other World, I see them as something straight out of the Inner World. De Lint's strength lies in his ability to match the inner needs of his characters to the archetypes represented by his mythical characters; each character's struggle manifests itself as a representation of magic or myth.

But de Lint's stories are more than Trickster tales or fairy happenings; people symbolize the heart of de Lint's Newford. Whether it means offering to take care of a young boy for a few days or giving a painting to a person who enjoys it, de Lint's message is that we should all help each other out when we can. What's even better is the fact that de Lint imparts this message without sounding preachy or corny; it just feels right.

The Ivory & the Horn is an excellent introduction to Newford. The stories are strong enough to stand on their own, while those reader who know Newford will enjoy the "back" stories that run through this collection. If you're like me, you'll devour these tales instantly; my advice is to go back and re-read them slowly to get the most out of them.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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