Wednesday, September 30, 2015
"Tapping the Dream Tree," by Charles de Lint
Basically to get myself back in the habit of both reading and writing critically, I'm going to go back to reviewing books - although I might be briefer than I used to be.
I've recently moved back in with my parents, and to while away the hours I started an impromptu Parental Book Club, encouraging my parents to submit books or authors they've always loved and always wanted me to try.
Which is what got me reading Tapping the Dream Tree. Charles de Lint is one of my mother's favourite authors, and she thought this collection of stories would be the perfect appetizer platter to introduce me to his unique brand of urban fantasy.
And to be honest - it was rather refreshing. I burnt out on urban fantasy pretty early after one-too-many novels about a Tough Heroine with a Mysterious Parentage who wears a Leather Jacket and Disrespects Authority and is in a Love Triangle with Two Equally Hot and Morally Ambiguous Magical Boyfriends.
De Lint's stories have a different, folkie, down-to-earth tone, inspired by Celtic and First Nations folklore. Most of them take place in or around the fictional town of Newford, with a revolving cast of recurring characters. Most of the protagonists are artists or musicians - people who, while not explicitly magical, are still open enough to the world's mysteries to be pretty chill about the magical stuff that inevitably goes down. I really enjoyed this - none of the stories get bogged down in "What do you mean magic is real?!" denials or overwrought explanations about rules or worldbuilding. Whether it's a fairy-powered internet search engine, a Ferris Wheel of alternate universes, or the ghost of the teenage free spirit you sacrificed for a happy adulthood, the drama comes not from confronting magic, but from accepting and learning from it.
What I enjoyed the most about these stories is that although characters might reference events from other collections or novels, I never felt lost or left out because I was a de Lint newbie. Tapping the Dream Tree is an effective Charles de Lint taster - each story is a satisfying standalone that still drops delicious hints about his pretty impressive backlist. I may have to try one of his novels, next.