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Review: The Ivory and the Horn, Charles de Lint

This is a collection of short stories set in Charles de Lint’s urban fantasy city of Newford.  This city – I’ve always thought it was in Canada but I don’t recall ever actually reading that – has its fair share of the poor, the needy, and the ones who choose to take advantage of them, but it is also full of magic for those with the ability to embrace it, like artist Sophie who dreams another world into existence.  Though these stories have all been published before and can be treated as separate entities, the book also works well as a collection with many of the same characters appearing over and over again.

My previous experience with Charles de Lint has been confined to The Onion Girl, which is set in this same city, and Moonheart, which is set elsewhere but still falls under an urban fantasy heading.  I knew that Newford started out with short stories and I always wanted to start from the beginning.  The Ivory and the Horn isn’t the beginning, but it was close enough for me when I got tired of waiting to be able to buy the first collection!

This is urban fantasy, but it’s a different kind of urban fantasy than the glut of books about badass heroines falling in love with/killing vampires/werewolves/etc which is currently dominating the market at the moment.  Much as I do enjoy those books, I also really enjoy this, because I feel that Newford is very much a real city with a real city’s issues, even if its inhabitants transport themselves to other worlds on occasion.  There is poverty here.  There is murder that has nothing to do with blood-sucking.  To me, this is more like real life with a fantasy edge, not a book that is fantasy with few touches of real life.  The fantasy is so subtle in some of the stories that it could be explained away as a dream or delusion, until it’s confirmed by someone else.

De Lint’s fantasy has also always felt very natural to me.  It’s bound up in what I imagine are Native American myths.  Some of the characters transport themselves to a desert and speak with animal spirits, or perform magic that leaves behind bits of bone and grass.  It always feels to me like it touches on what people actually believed was real at one point.  It’s difficult to describe the essence of it, but I really like it.

I even liked the characters.  Short stories are often a hard sell for me.  I find it really hard to relate to anyone when they’re only around for thirty pages or so, and I don’t think the plot always can develop either.  But here, because everyone pops up again and again, and similar issues are dealt with, and the city stays the same, I actually really appreciated the short story format.  The stories kept my attention and I could get to know the characters as well as find out a new angle about their lives.  It’s about a community.

I’m really anxious to read more Newford stories.  I’m still not supposed to be buying books, but we’re halfway through February now and it’s almost March, when I can be a little freer with my purchases.  So, recommendations – I fully intend to read Dreams Underfoot, but what else is excellent by de Lint?  Let me know!

I am an Amazon Associate. I purchased this book, and I’m sorry I waited so long to read it!

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