Charles de Lint,
(Tor, 1992)

Spiritwalk is a return to the welcoming Tamson House in Ottawa and its eclectic mix of denizens. The author's note says that "Spiritwalk is related to ... Moonheart. A familiarity with the events in that previous novel is recommended, though not ... altogether necessary."

Fresh from the enchantment of Moonheart, I eagerly plunged into Spiritwalk, which is a superb and entrancing tale in its own right. Any discerning reader will quickly become engrossed in its plot; however, it is not exactly the sequel I expected. But those enraptured by Moonheart, take heart; Blue and Judy, even Tucker and Maggie are (briefly) back; Sara and Jamie, Puckwudji and Ha'kan'ta still cross the boundaries between this world and the Other, and there is the delightful anticipation of meeting yet more of de Lint's well-founded characters.

The enigmatic, shape-changing Whiskey Jack has a pivotal role affecting several characters: a mischievous charmer, his Old World, multi-faceted persona is more than it seems at first glance. The grasping, shallow criminals, and the Unseelie woodwife and her gnashers, thwarted in her attempt to seize Kinrowan (a fleeting reference to the events of Jack of Kinrowan) engender shudders of revulsion, but light must have dark, and there is a bit of both in the woodwife's brooding bard, Taran.

With his usual deftness, de Lint creates the personalities and tensions between the opposites. He delves further into Blue's psyche to the extent that this complex and attractive dichotomy of a man is almost the main character. We are introduced to another strong lead: Esmerelda, a young woman well on the road to learning the ways of mystery; and Emma, her friend from teenage years, who refuses to recognise her own inner gift despite the fact that others seek to kill her in an attempt to possess her "Autumn Heart." Esmerelda blows into Tamson House, ruffling a few feathers with her arrival, her confidence and organising manner simultaneously setting both Blue and Sara on edge, while providing comfort for Jamie.

Emma's endangered life and soul set Blue and his biker cohorts on more than one crusade against the forces of Evil. Jamie's experiments in traveling the Otherworlds have catastrophic consequences when a dark-hearted soul, greedy for immortality, wakes the spirit of the First Forest and plunges the house into an Otherworld in his absence. The house, stripped of its innate protection, cannot repel the dangerous and angery natural inhabitants of this forest world, and the house's residents must join forces and battle to survive.

In de Lint's fantasy, there are no glib answers, and although rich with magic and mystery, he shows us that gifts are not necessarily free or frivolous; some come with heavy responsibilities to be accepted, and every cause has an effect. Passively leaving things undone can be as catastrophic as actively doing the wrong thing.

Spiritwalk takes us on a journey of discovery, privy to the thoughts and feelings of many of the characters, each of whom have their role to play in the drama as it unfolds. There is action and chilling horror, tenderness and blossoming love, anguish and unimaginable loss. The joy of the book is that de Lint so effortlessly makes you care so deeply about the central characters that you feel you walk the corridors of Tamson House beside them; his story-telling is so vivid that you can hear the coyote's laugh and the shaman drums, smell the damp wood and the motorbike oil, flinch at the vision of the repulsive gnashers and marvel at the appearance of the Westlin Wind. The only true sorrow is that you feel bereft when the story finally ends and have to leave Charles de Lint's Ottawa; but you know you are always welcome to return to Tamson House.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 15 March 2003

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