Charles de Lint,
Triskell Tales 2
(Subterranean Press, 2006)

It's almost like being on Charles de Lint's Christmas card list.

Triskel Tales 2 is a slim volume collecting six years' worth of de Lint's special holiday tales. Each, he explained in his introduction, was written to share with friends at the end of the year in a special, limited-edition chapbook.

Subterranean Press in 2000 collected the first 22 years of chapbook stories in a single volume. Not willing to wait another two decades, Subterranean issued a second volume after only six years. Appropriately, our review copy arrived before our Christmas decorations were down, if not in time for the holiday itself.

Anyone who has read de Lint's numerous novels and short stories knows there is often a dark thread in his fiction, often but not always offset by a spark of hope or a shining example of human kindness in the face of adversity. These chapbook tales, as befits the holiday season, are typically more upbeat, a burst of good cheer amid the haunted, fanciful streets of Newford.

Newford, of course, is de Lint's fictional city, a setting where the veil between this and other realities is unusually thin. And many of his most beloved characters reappear here, from the offbeat artist Jilly Coppercorn to the delightfully ageless Crow Girls and the magical couple Cerin and Meran. The seven stories offered here (there are two from 2001, the second a collaboration between de Lint and his wife, MaryAnn Harris) each stand neatly alone, but a working knowledge of Newford and its people doesn't hurt, either.

"Big City Littles" gives us a children's author whose storybook fantasies aren't as fictional as she thought. She's challenged to come up with a solution to their problems -- with a little outside assistance -- and give them the happy ending they desire. "Refinerytown" features real-life author Nina Kiriki Hoffman in a co-starring role, writing a comic-book series about oily industrial fairies -- and they're not entirely happy with the direction their story is going. "A Crow Girls' Christmas," with Harris, casts Maida and Zia as Santa's elves at the local mall and ponders the wisdom of leaving two sugar addicts in charge of the candy canes.

"Sweet Forget-Me-Not" introduces a gaggle of gemmin, spirits who absorb the histories of places and, when filled with stories, disappear into another world. In this tale, a young man learns the perils of romancing a fey. "Da Slocklit Light" involves a sunken city, an underground goblin colony, a missing harper and ancient crow spirit, a thief and dwindling numbers among Newford's transient population. "The World in a Box" is precisely that, and leaves readers to wonder what they might do if they found such a thing.

Lastly, "This Moment" is a romance amid the many unseen spirits who walk Newford's streets, loiter in its graveyards and ride bicycles down its sidewalks. It's a warm, good-hearted story to conclude a warm, good-hearted book.

While only one of the seven tales has a direct connection to the holiday season, they are still Charles de Lint's Christmas present to all his loyal readers. While Triskell Tales 2 won't get the kind of wide distribution most of his novels and short-story collections receive, it's worth tracking down to read and enjoy, snuggled someplace warm with your own hob, crow or loved one perched by your side.

by Tom Knapp
28 January 2006

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