Terri Windling,
The Wood Wife
(Tor, 1996)

Set in the Arizona desert, this tale of magic and love sweeps the reader into the world of nature spirits and poetry. Originally conceived as part of Brian Froud's Faerielands series, Windling brought the book to Tor after the original publisher cancelled the series.

Marguerita (a.k.a. Maggie) Black is a writer, poet and ex-wife of L.A. classical musician Nigel. She inherits the house of Davis Cooper, a long-time correspondent, but someone she never met in person. Cooper, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, died mysteriously, found drowned in a dried-out creek bed. Maggie has long wished to write Cooper's biography, and believes that this inheritance was Cooper's unspoken permission to do so. She now has the chance to learn just what happened to Cooper in his years of hermitage in the desert.

The beauty and majesty of the Arizona desert and its denizens entrances Maggie. The human inhabitants of Cooper's desert land are delightful individuals who at first don't quite know what to make of Maggie's city girl style. Those who befriend Maggie include Johnny Foxxe, the very attractive caretaker; Dora, calm wife of the emotional painter Juan; and the Alders, a married team of animal rescuers. All of them aid Maggie in her quest to discover just what happened on this mountain with Cooper and his dear love, painter Anna Naverra.

Paintings and poetry weave throughout the book, including mentions of Brian Froud's piquant faery pictures. The nature spirits of the desert and mountain make themselves known to Maggie. Their mystery adds to the mysteries of Cooper's death and Anna's breakdown so many years before. The story moves between Maggie's present investigation and the past through letters written by both Cooper and Anna. Slowly, Maggie unravels the secrets and mysteries, though not without great danger to herself and her friends, and emerges changed for the better.

Readers who know Windling primarily as an anthologist will enjoy this novel. This is modern fantasy that readers of Tim Powers and Charles de Lint will enjoy. Windling weaves the power and imagery of Native American myth with the shadow of British faery lore, and the mix is wild, wonderful and an enjoyable read.

- Rambles
written by by Beth Derochea
published DATE

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