This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

26 April, 2012

REVIEW: JACK OF KINROWAN

Book design: Victoria Kuskowski

JACK OF KINROWAN
BY
CHARLES DE LINT

ISBN: 0-312-86959-2
Pages: 412
Publisher: Orb
First Published: Jack the Giant Killer - 1 November 1987, Drink down the Moon - 1 June 1990
This edition published: 2 July 1999

On the cover:

Jack, the Giant Killer
 
A faceless gang of bikers on Wild Hunt through the streets of present-day Ottawa hurtles young Jacky Rowan across the threshold into the perilous land of Faerie. There, to her dismay, she is hailed as the Jack of Kinrowan, a once-and-future trickster hero whose lot is to save the Elven Courts from unimaginable evil.
Drink Down the Moon

Once the realm of Faerie drew its power from the Moon herself. But now a ghastly creature has stolen that power and enslaved the Fair Folk--and Jacky Rowan herself. Only Johnny Faw, a handsome fiddler unaware of his magical gifts, has the power to set them free.

   This is an edition collecting two novels, I'll review each of them underneath.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER

   This story is written very much in the tradition of Fairy Tales, and it bases its world on the Faerie worlds of Celtic legends.
   The hidden world, one that co-exists with our own, is in this case located in Ottawa, Canada. Maybe not the first, or tenth for that matter, location for a Contemporary Fantasy you'll think of. But the real world setting is not really relevant to this story. It could have been any urban area that is over a certain size. (As could most of the London/New York/Chicago/etc set Urban Fantasy novels with the same premise.)
   Here the hidden world is the one of Faerie (, not to be confused with faeries) , a very good setting for a Fantasy tale. De Lint doesn't actually do that much worldbuilding as such, we only get glimpses into the world of Faerie. But I didn't feel that this detracted from the novel, an Epic Fantasy style description, with or without a map, would have served no purpose here. And I think it would only have detracted from the story.

   The story kicks off without any build-up, we are thrown into events just as the main character Jacky Rowan is. We make the journey along with her, and it is a great journey.
   There is plenty of action and suspense along the way, and there's enough suspense to make this a very compelling read. When the story ends we get a resolution that fits in very nicely with previous events, and it feels like this is the destination we were heading for all the time.

   The characters are also very well done. Especially Jacky and her friend, Kate Hazel. Both are fully realised and realistic young women, and their actions and development throughout the story feel very much natural.

DRINK DOWN THE MOON

   This story continues and expands on the tale of Jacky Rowan. But it also introduces us to new characters, most importantly Johnny Faw and Jenni Pook. 
   The story here is split into to strands, Johnny Faw's is arguably the main one, but Jacky Rowan's is equally important. De Lint makes these two parallel stories compliment each other to great effect. They both add layers to the overall story, and they drive each other along for the reader, making this a very fast paced narrative at times.

   Adding several new characters could have made the story a bit cluttered, but de Lint completely avoids making it feel as if there is too much going on. The link between the two storylines is established early on.
   The addition of new players in the Farie world of Ottawa also makes for a seamless way of expending our knowledge of how it works. We get to see parts of the Faerie world that are completely new to us, and this makes for some very interesting revelations.
   Both Johnny and Jenni are interesting to get to know, but it is Johnny who gives us a better understanding of how alien the hidden world is to our own in the early stages of the story. This is very well done by de Lint, and adds an extra layer of believability to the Fairy Tale based narrative.

   The story is pretty much packed with action and suspense when it gets going. There are some very tense passages here. And that there is a relatively large number of characters adds an extra layer of suspense for the reader, as it is impossible to know who will play the central role in the resolution of the story.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

   There is no doubt that de Lint is a great writer, and I am pretty annoyed with myself for not reading any of his books before now despite hearing good things about him since the '90s.
   I found de Lint's writing style to be very compelling. He doesn't overwrite, but manages to tell what is needed in relatively few pages. He's also very good at creating tension, and there is a pace to his stories that are at times break-neck. De Lint has found his way into my must-buy author list with these two stories.

   This is a great Urban Fantasy book, and it shows the roots of that genre off to great effect. Anyone who has any interest in where Urban Fantasy came from should without a doubt get hold of it at the earliest opportunity.
   It is also a great Fairy Tale, based around Celtic myth and legends. And I think it will be a great read for anyone interested in that storytelling tradition.
   Basically this is a book that should be in any fan of Fantasy's collection.

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