Imagine me, your humble book reviewer, down on my knees with my arms extended above my head, bowing at the waist in worship over and over before a book set upon an altar. Well, after reading Widdershins, the extraordinary new novel by Charles de Lint, I not only wanted to bow in worship to the book, which I consider the best thing I’ve read in the last couple of years (if not longer), but to the author as well. Anyone with this kind of talent for storytelling and dreamweaving deserves his own altar.
I never knew de Lint existed, but apparently those many fans who did practically worship the work this critically acclaimed novelist and short story writer has done, so much so that they wait with bated breath for the next piece of contemporary magical fiction. When I started this novel, I wasn’t much of a fan of “urban fantasy” or folklore-meets-regular-folk fiction, but this novel sucked me in immediately with its rich and textured style, words that read like the most magical of spells, and characters I immediately fell madly in love with and longed to know more about. By the time I turned the final page, I was just as distraught as de Lint’s other fans must be when faced with having to end a story that drew me into other worlds far more interesting than my own.
Widdershins tells the story of a handful of humans who get caught up in the between worlds and other worlds of fairy folk and native animal people known as “cousins.” As major conflict brews between the native cousins and the more recently arrived fairy people, several humans find their own lives in complete chaos as they, too, are forced to move between worlds, take up sides, and make their stand. Most notably, this is a love story about two very special humans who “shine,” Geordie Riddell and Jilly Coppercorn, whom de Lint fans will recognize. Widdershins specifically focuses on Jilly’s coming to terms with the horrors of her youth and with her love for Geordie, who has problems of his own in fairy land.
Both utterly, breathtakingly epic and sensuously intimate, this truly enchanting novel moves between worlds itself, taking us to realms of pure imagination, then back to “real life” with issues that hit close to home for many, including child abuse, depression, and vengeance. The atmosphere is palpable, whether you are in the real-world locale of Newford’s rather Bohemian street life, where our humans reside and play music for their fans, or the other worlds of creatures like corbae, cerva and canid – old spirits that have been around since the time Raven created the universe. Or there are the fairy courts, where creepy little bogans and gorgeous fairies alike move about, getting into and out of trouble.
Charles de Lint writes with such beauty that each line grabs you by the heart, caressing you even as it scares or disturbs or distresses you. And even though there is nary a sex scene (only hints of them), this is the most sensual book I’ve read in years.
Five stars is just not enough. Widdershins is an experience not to be missed. Just start walking counter-clockwise…