Charles de Lint,
Waifs & Strays
(Viking, 2002)

In Terri Windling's introduction to Charles de Lint's new short story collection, Waifs & Strays, she draws attention to de Lint's work as "a celebration of the creative process," this time more strongly aimed toward a young adult audience. Yet in the author's note, de Lint is quick to point out that these stories are not stories written for young adults, but rather stories written about young adults. Other than that, these stories are pure de Lint -- "a love of language, music, and myth," Windling writes, melded with "the potent real-world magic that is born from friendship and compassion."

Each set of stories is divided into sections according to geography; the stories' settings range from the familiar streets of Ottawa to the more imaginary realms of Bordertown and Newford. "Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood" begins the collection, followed by a pair of stories that don't seem like de Lint material at first glance. Charles de Lint? Teenage vampires? Excuse me? But keep on reading and you'll soon find that "There's No Such Thing" and "Sisters" fit perfectly with de Lint's urban fantasies. "Sisters" espcially follows the form of many of de Lint's short stories, interspersing action with character thoughtshots.

"The Graceless Child" is a beautiful foray into secondary-world fantasy, while "A Tattoo on Her Heart" takes the reader into a futuristic city -- or what's left of one. From there, de Lint carries the reader into the more familiar territory of the Borderlands and Newford. Readers new to de Lint's work will find these short stories -- and the individual introductions that grace each opening -- grant easy access to these fictitious worlds. Although several of these stories are reprinted from other short story collections, this collection also gathers stories that can't be found elsewhere. The cover art is another evocative painting by John Jude Palencar, featuring the floating-person-and-tree imagery found on other de Lint covers (Forests of the Heart and The Onion Girl).

At the center of almost every de Lint story is the "outsider," the character relegated to the edges. Nowhere is that theme more fitting and appropriate than in a collection of short stories for young adults -- an age period where "fitting in" or having somewhere to belong, someone to understand, is of the utmost importance. De Lint treats these characters -- and his audience -- with care, compassion, good humor and the reassurance that there is a place for everyone.

- Rambles
written by Audrey Clark
published 18 January 2003

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