“Because some things – the deep, meaningful things that sit at the heart of our souls – can’t be touched by magic. They can only be touched by the hurt or the love that we offer to each other.” (page 494)
To walk widdershins is to walk counterclockwise around something, or to go in the direction opposite of the usual one. It’s a fitting title for this novel by urban fantasy master Charles de Lint, for the literal reasons and the more figurative ones. If you are a fan of de Lint, then you are familiar with the characters Jilly and Geordie, best friends who seem to be perfect for each other, but who are too worried about ruining their friendship to pursue it more than that. This novel is about them, but also about so much more.
It’s difficult to encapsulate a nearly 600 page book into a paragraph-long summary, but I will try! Lizzie is on her way to a gig when she runs out of gas and is intercepted by a group of bogans, troublesome fairy who are mean at best and murderous at worst. They lose interest in a recently slaughtered deer and try to assault Lizzie, but she manages to escape their clutches with the help of a cousin, an old-world being who is frequently at odds with the newly arrived fairy, named Grey. After she plays a lament for the fallen dear, actually a cousin princess of sorts, her father appears and offers his help to Lizzie by offering his true name. The bogans, convinced that Lizzie is somehow connected to Grey, attack her in retribution against an old feud against Grey, unintentionally dragging Jilly (who is there to see one of Lizzie’s shows) along with them. Those events spark a conflict between those interested in hurting Lizzie and Jilly and those who want to protect them, and on a much grander scale, a conflict between the cousins and the fairy.
I know! It sounds confusing and convoluted! But it makes complete sense when you read it, and I truthfully fell in love with this novel. I have been disappointed by the last two novels I read by de Lint (Yarrow and The Mystery of Grace) but this story reaffirmed why I love de Lint and why I will keep reading his novels until I’ve read them all. De Lint’s characters are so full and complete that they feel like real people. The fantasy is completely brought to life by de Lint’s words and I am continuously impressed by the world de Lint has created.
I think if you have never read another novel by de Lint before, this novel would be somewhat confusing (and spoilerific about other novels!), so I recommend you start with some of the earlier Newford stories or The Onion Girl first. The Onion Girl also stars Jilly, and is really the prequel to this novel. If you’ve read The Onion Girl, then put this on your TBR pile right. now! because it is awesome.
89% – Urban fantasy at its best, great characters, amazing world.