Charles de Lint,
The Wild Wood
(Bantam Spectra, 1994;
Tor, 2004))

This book, like Terri Windling's The Wood Wife, was part of the well-conceived but ill-fated Brian Froud's Faerielands series. The Wild Wood, however, was actually published as part of the series and has the lovely Froud cover, as well as Froud's delicate pictures throughout the book adding to its fey feel. More beauty, however, is within the story itself.

Eithnie, a Canadian artist, has been troubled by dreams of Faerie. Mysterious and disturbing, these dreams frighten her so much that she runs to friends in Arizona, asking them if they believe in Faerie. Her artist friends answer her questions seriously, and her fears are allayed enough to return to the Canadian woods. In an effort to determine her own sanity, she continues asking friends about Faerie while exploring the woods more deeply. Her friends are understandably concerned about this line of questioning, but are willing to accept her explanations.

With the discovery of a weasel pelt pouch tacked to her door, Eithnie's fate is linked with that of the spirits of the woods. However, it seems she has always been linked -- memories of her past and childhood dreams become a part of her daily thoughts.

Slowly, her life becomes more surreal, as she tries to discover exactly what it is that the faeries want her to accomplish. Through her friends Joe and Ruth, as well as a dreamlike adventure with odd "stickmen" faeries, Eithne comes to the realization that she needs to help Broceliande, the mystical wood spirit, the "leader" of the stickmen, and keeper of mysteries of the woods. Only through her cousin Sharleen, bringing strange greetings from Eithne's past and dead grandmother, does Eithne solve this spiritual and natural mystery.

This book has a touch of etherealness about it, a hint of unreality heightened by deLint's descriptions and Froud's drawings. However, this feeling is offset by the practical reality of the characters, especially secondary characters such as Ruth and Sharleen. Both help to keep Eithne from becoming unlikable in her determination to face her fears alone.

Please note: Books in Print lists The Wild Wood as OSI, or Out of Stock Indefinitely. Your best bet for finding it is online or in used bookstores. Good luck -- it's worth the search!

[ by Beth Derochea ]

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