Cover art by Cliff Nielsen
CHARLES DE LINT
Publisher: Firebird (Penguin US)
First published: 2 August 1988
This edition published: 19 January 2004
On the cover:
His name when he was human was Kern, and it seemed he had been running forever, for he had become the most feared of beings; a werewolf. When the change had first come upon him, his parents had driven him away with silver daggers. Later, Kern sought human companionship. But he could not hide the truth for long, and so he kept running until he ran headlong into the deadliest pursuer of all - a harper bent on stealing his life away.By chance Kern was able to take refuge at the Inn of the Yellow Tinker, a warm and welcoming place where he might find a home if he guarded his secret well. And at the inn, Kern found the woman he was destined to love. But could he risk both human and harper vengeance to keep her?
I should start by categorising this book. To begin with it was marketed as "12 - AND UP years" in 2004, but I'm in no doubt this is Young Adult by today's standards even if the characters are sligthly older than what is usual in YA. It also has a quite strong Romance plot to it, and it is clearly Fantasy. So to sum up, this is Young Adult Fantasy with Romance (,which if it isn't a sub-category clearly should be.)
De Lint is a great technical writer, his prose is excellent while still staying simple. He doesn't overcomplicate anything, but writes in a pared down and uncomplicated style that is a joy to read. However he doesn't oversimplify, or "dumb down" if you will, he's just precise in what he writes. Of course being technically accomplished doesn't matter much if the story isn't up to scratch. There's no worries on that front, de Lint is a master storyteller.
The story starts out in a very familiar Fantasy/Fairy Tale way and it continues to be that way for a while. That is not a criticism, the way de Lint writes makes it a very good read despite being familiar in many ways. However, once you get further into the story you realise that de Lint has been deceiving you, and the story becomes so much more than a well written take on a rather standard story.
While the story may continue to follow familiar patterns de Lint manages to put his own twist on a lot of the elements, and you don't feel like you are reading something written to a formula. This really feels like a fresh story, and you will be left guessing where it will take you.
I mentioned earlier that this story has quite a strong romantic sub-plot, or more correctly I suppose a romantic co-plot, this is something that I am rarely a fan of, but de Lint manages to pull it off. The romance plot flows naturally along with the rest of the story, it never feels forced. Although it has some Fairy Tale aspects to it, it doesn't in any way feel unrealistic, neither is it toned down too much. It is just a natural part of the story being told, something that made me actually like this part of the plot quite a lot.
That de Lint really is a great writer can also be seen in the way the characters flows off the page. You'll very early get a feeling for what type the characters are, but they are not restricted by type. And especially one of them manages to have a development that is much more than her stereotype would suggests. (In an early "meta" scene it is even remarked on how stereotypical she is, a great moment that is quite funny.)
The small cast of characters are very well developed for such a short novel. They really come alive at de Lint's hand, they feel like friends, people you have gotten close to despite meeting them a short time ago.
This is really a splendid Fantasy book for all ages and genders. De Lint shows that he's a great storyteller, and this book shows that he deserves to be wider read by Fantasy fans. This would make a perfect book for the younger generation, while also being satisfying to older readers. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Fantasy.
REVIEW: Jack of Kinrowan