Charles de Lint,
(Tor, 2006)

Waiting for my advance reading copy of Widdershins to arrive was very akin to pain. Its arrival, a moment of celebration. I could hardly wait to crack the cover back and start reading; unfortunately, I was on the way out the door, en route to an "invite a friend to lunch" date at my daughter's elementary school, when it came. It had to wait -- although I delayed long enough to read the back cover and the author's introduction before leaving.

That book I was already halfway through and enjoying? Tossed aside for later.

It's not just that I love Charles de Lint's writing and avidly gobble up everything new (and old) of his whenever I can. It's that I, too, had to know. Whither Jilly and Geordie?

Like with many other de Lint fans, the ubiquitous pair stands tall among my favorite Newford inhabitants. Jilly Coppercorn is the wise, tender, eccentric artist with a tortured past, a serene present and a gift for looking for the best in all things and all people -- despite her own tragedies. Geordie Riddell is the itinerant fiddler, the good-hearted friend and one of Newford's last skeptics -- until he, too, was forced to accept the realities of the fey. These two have been woven in and around many of de Lint's stories, both as primary characters and background support. And now, finally, de Lint is ready to tell their story.

It's no disappointment. For the sake of de Lint fans as eager as I was to see this one out to its conclusion, I'll refrain from repeating too many details here.

But let's begin with a few hints. Sure, the book revolves counterclockwise around Jilly and Geordie, but there are other Newford inhabitants, both new and old, who populate this tale. One is Lizzie Mahone, a musician whose car stalls in the middle of a growing war between North America's native and immigrant fey. Grunts from one side of the battle lines threaten the young girl, while a solitary member of the other comes to her rescue.

But don't sell the division short; de Lint is too canny a writer to draw a clear-cut line between good and evil. Both sides have their share of each and, even more common still, there are folk and faeries who exist somewhere in between. And, entwined within the larger frameworks of war are silkier threads of personal vengeance, hatred and murder.

Of course, both native and immigrant mythologies are richly presented, building further on the groundwork laid in de Lint's previous stories. There is bold, realistic and sometimes idealistic character development along the way, including both romance and heartache, and the story -- presented from various points of view -- leaps from its pages and comes to life in the very air around you.

Jilly, meanwhile, vanishes into a reality of her own devising, built from the nightmares of her childhood. Geordie's noble efforts to save her put himself in peril. And Lizzie is still coming to grips with this whole mythic reality she's stumbled into. Others, including fan favorites, the Crow Girls, and the great bird of the galaxy who just might have brought this world into being, have their parts to play as well before a final resolution (or resolutions) is reached.

I've praised de Lint's writing in the past, but I've run out of superlatives for Widdershins. It is easily one of the best -- if not the best -- novels in his vast library.

by Tom Knapp
20 May 2006

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