Charles de Lint,
Jack in the Green
(Subterranean Press, 2014)

Maria Martinez works as a maid in upscale neighborhoods in Santo del Vado Jiejo, the southwestern city that has lately taken the place of Newford -- and, before that, Ottawa -- in the creative mind of Charles de Lint. She's poor and probably wouldn't be welcome in the houses she cleans if she wasn't employed there, so she doesn't feel too bad for the owners when she witnesses a brazen gang breaking into one of them while she's at work.

The presence of an old and dear friend among them piques her interest a whole lot more than whatever larceny is going on there, however, and Maria hastens to reconnect. She also finds herself drawn to the young man leading the gang, a mutual attraction that doesn't diminish when she learns that he is an incarnation of none other than Robin Hood, with key members of his merry band at his back. It doesn't hurt that Jack, as he's now called, has similarly altruistic motives to his crimes.

The novella certainly has something to say about the way the world works today, particularly the socio-political climate that keeps the poor poor, and members of the 1 percent might shift uncomfortably while reading it. Those of us in the 99 percent can't help but cheer. It's all wrapped in de Lint's mystical sense of wonder in his surroundings -- there is nothing so mundane in a de Lint story that there cannot be some element of magic to it -- and his characters feel, as usual, like real, breathing individuals.

The conclusion is the slim book's only weakness; things happen abruptly, and circumstances change just a little too conveniently at times. The end feels either too happy, or too sad -- as if the author maybe couldn't decide which way to go and chose a middle path. Unfortunately, that left me with a sense of ambivalence toward the outcome that is uncharacterstic of a de Lint tale.

It's a flaw of preference more than anything else, I suspect, and many readers will put Jack in the Green down wholly satisfied with the direction it takes. I for one am glad I didn't miss it -- it's a brief but powerful story of friendship and hope, as well as magic.

If you have a Kindle, you might want to go the e-book route. The hardcover edition is from Subterranean Press, which means high quality at a high price. At the time of this writing, Amazon is listing the cost at $31.50 -- a substantial bite for fewer than 90 pages of text. While I admittedly prefer the feel of paper in my hands when I read, the $3.99 Kindle price is far easier on the budget.

book review by
Tom Knapp

1 February 2014

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