By Alex Binkley
Ottawa fantasy author and musician Charles de Lint creates intriguing characters to populate the stream of novels and short stories he produces with astounding regularity. Many of them will remind readers of people they know.
Generally his stories fall in the genre of modern fantasy and while the tales have a definite link to our troubled world, the reader has to let his or her imagination take charge to fully appreciate de Lint’s characters and the adventures and challenges they face. Among my favourites are his stories set in the fictional community of Newford, which reminded me of many places I have visited.
He has another hit with his Wildings series Under My Skin and Over My Head and the just released Out of the World. The story is set in a California beach community called Santa Feliz. It is full of surfers and a collection of strange teenagers who have turned into animal shape shifters. There is some justice in the shifting identities as Chaingang, the biker tough guy who turns into a mouse while timid Josh Saunders becomes a fearsome lion, which marks him as the person to save the world from a nasty demon. He is sufficiently frightened of Josh that he is pressuring Chaingang to kill Josh.
The kids are called Wildlings. Some leading politicians with Tea Party compassion and sympathies want them rounded up, which forces the kids to take care to hide their abilities. More knowledgeable elders in the community want to protect them so they can complete their pre-ordained role confronting a Wilding elder with nasty intentions toward humanity. It may sound somewhat like the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson stories, but the books are quite unique and just as engaging. They should appeal to teenage readers and anyone else who still has some kid in him or her.
In Over My Heads, Josh is trying to get his life back to normal after an escape from some nasty medical experiments. However life cannot be normal with the FBI monitoring your movements, and the school bully determined to make Josh his principal target. Then there is the elder.
Among my favourite de Lintian characters from other stories are the Crow Girls. They are consummate tricksters and troublemakers, much like their avian counterparts. De Lint’s stories are full of many other equally engaging characters who like the Crow girls aren’t far off folks I encounter.