Charles de Lint: The Little Country

The Little Country
Charles de Lint
First published 1991
Pan "trade" paperback edition 636 pages

The particular edition of this book that I read was rather intimidating - for purely physical reasons. This "trade" paperback is in a large format and printed on a fairly heavy grade of paper. The result is a book that is quite hard to support in your hands for an extended period of time. And it is a book which invites concerted periods of reading - not so much gripping as much as being simply very readable.

I have never read any of de Lint's other work, so this was a new experience for me. However, a little investigation shows that this work explores concepts well used in his other works - particularly the notion of gateways between our world and other realms of magic and wonder. Common enough perhaps, but in the case of this work the emphasis is more on the gateway itself rather than it simply being a plot device to start the story proper. The story concentrates on a musician and her search for the key to this gateway. She is helped in this by her steadfast and worthy family and friends, while ancient, evil and magical forces (including a wicked witch) try to hinder them as they too search for the same key. All this set in a small and quaint cornish fishing village.

Reading the synopsis above, you may easily think that the plot is hackneyed, but the phrase I prefer is old fashioned. In fact I had to check the publishing date because its a story that could have come straight out of the early part of this century. That's part of the reason why this book is so readable - it generates an atmosphere of a small (old fashioned) village so well that you get drawn right into it. Not just the atmosphere of the village, but also of magic, mystery, music and wonder. The strong musical element is explained by the fact that de Lint is an experienced celtic musician.

So, will you enjoy this book? Well if you like hard science, or gritty realism, or high pace, high tech and high action then you should give this book a miss. If you like your heroes to be pure of heart, your villains to be evil, for the world to contain magic and wonder described in a rich and colourful fashion, then give this book serious consideration.