Charles de Lint

So I’m reading Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint, and it’s falling a little flat. The dialogue seems somewhat self-conscious and a little awkward, the prose, considering the subject, is rather dull. I thought pretty much the same thing of my previous outing into de Lint; Mugabe.

Which is annoying me, because I want to like de Lint. He’s very important in the subgenre of urban fantasy, which is one I like a lot. I like the concept of Jack; a fantasy world that isn’t in some distant dimension but is right next door to us, in fact which overlaps us; the Wild Hunt as motorcycle riding thugs, the Unseelie Court strengthened by the modern age’s horror novels and movies. I think that’s cool. I think urban fantasy is cool.

Don’t I? Because looking back now, while I’ve always thought the idea was cool, I had mixed reaction to almost all such novels. I always thought Neil Gaiman’s stuff was a little twee and cutesy (yes, there are dark scenes in *Sandman * and other works, but they struck me as… I dunno. Kinda twee in their own way, too, I suppose). I like Tim Powers, but not unreservedly.

I don’t know. Can you like a genre in theory and dislike most of it in practise?

I love Charles de Lint, but I wouldn’t call Jack of Kinrowan one of his best works. Try Somewhere to be Flying and Trader, both are excellent and you don’t need his whole mythology to enjoy them. The Onion Girl is also great, but you may want to be more familar with Jilly before you read it (and I can’t remember the names of his story collections at the moment). All three of these novels are more subtle about the otherworld and its incusion into “our” world than Jack, but the urban mythology is still very much present.

I thought Trader was a great novel, but my favorite Charles de Lint book is Dreams Underfoot, an anthology of short stories set in the city, with recurring characters. I loved it well enough to want to lend out my copy, and it never came back to me.

I want to say he has another book along the same lines, but the name escapes me.

I tried very hard to like him as well, have a friend who loves the guy up back and down, and I never could stand it. All, you know, twee.

But what I gotta say is - yeah, you can like a genre in theory and not in practice. I like cyberpunk, kinda - most people do. So name me a book not by Neal Stephenson or William Gibson that’s cyberpunk worth, you know, reading?

Argh. What I meant to type was

I like cyberpunk, kinda - most people do.*quote]
I like cyberpunk, kinda - lots of people do, but they have to qualify once they think about it.

Same here with DeLint. I’m struggling through The Onion Girl because it feels like a book I should finish, but I’m not particularly enjoying it. And the “Jack” books were enjoyable but, well, not particularly memorable for me.

I want to like urban fantasy. I love the idea of it, but the execution so far isn’t thrilling me.


Try Moonheart. In my opinion, it’s a much better book and story than the two in Jack of Kinrowan. I’d also recommend Yarrow, The Riddle of the Wren and Harp of the Gray Rose. These last two aren’t Urban Fantasy, btw.

I think maybe DeLint is a writer who works better in a short story format. I too had a hard time getting through the Jack books, but I loved Dreams Underfoot.