Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: _The Ivory and the Horn_ by Charles de Lint

A winter wind blows down a city street. Out of the corner of an eye, one sees a strange being slip into the shadows. A fairy? Something else? Events like this happen to the people living in the Fantasy city of Newford. This city is the creation of the master of Urban Fantasy, Charles de Lint. In his second collection of stories about Newford, The Ivory and the Horn, Mr. de Lint tells more intriguing stories of the inhabitants of the city.

Sophie Etoile is a woman with a remarkable talent. She dreams of other places that are as real as our world. Most of the time her dreams take her to Mabon, but in “Where Desert Spirits Crowd the Night,” she finds herself trapped in a desert filled with spirits from Native American myth. The trickster god Coyote follows her through the dream until she resolves a problem. This story contains vivid descriptions of the desert dream world. Sophie a ìnd the other characters are realistic. Readers will find this a poignant, entertaining story.

“Bird Bones and Wood Ash” is a story about the subject of child abuse. Jaime encounters strange spirit women with animal heads. They give her magical gifts which she uses to stop those who physically or sexually abuse children by turning them off. Christopher, a jaded social worker, makes a deal with Jaime to tell her where abusers can be found. Even though Jaime acts like a superhero, her acts come with a price. This is a moving story of the darker side of humanity.

Mr. de Lint writes about those living in poverty in “Waifs and Strays.” Maisie is a street kid, homeless until she gets help from Angel and a homeless woman called Shirley. She has adopted a special needs young man named Tommy and several dogs. Trying to provide a home, work and going to school takes its toll on Maisie. Eventually she gets help from a ghost. This is a powerful story with the themes of caring for people, self reliance and courage. The author gives us memorable characters that readers can sympathize with throughout the story.

“The Forest Is Crying” introduces readers to social worker Christopher Dennison. After another child he tried to help is found dead, he resolves to quit his job. He gets drunk and ends up sick in an alley. A young woman helps him, taking him home and staying with him through the night. She says some weird things to him. When she disappears, he finds himself on a last case, which changes his jaded outlook on life. The strength of Mr. de Lint’s characters creates a potent story of the human spirit overcoming terrible situations.

Friendship and loss are the themes of the mournful story “Pal O’Mine.” Sue was a lonely child until she met Gina. They became best friends as children. As they grew up, their lives took different paths. A call from Gina’s mother brings Sue back into the life her depressed friend. Sue learns about the magic in the world on Christmas Eve as she remembers Gina. This story has a bittersweet ending provided by the author’s masterful talent for creating memorable characters and plots.

The Ivory and the Horn by Charles de Lint is a collection of more stories set in the fictional city of Newford. The stories range through different themes and are entertaining. A main theme of all the stories is that magic is not the solution to problems, but strength of character is. Readers will enjoy the stories of people as they encounter the magic of Newford.

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