You may have heard of him; he won the 2000 World Fantasy Award, and he's the chief book critic for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He writes urban fantasy and many of his stories are set in the imaginary town of Newford, where 'magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.'
Among these characters is Jilly Coppercorn, an artist whose vision extends beyond what most of us see. I met Jilly in the book Onion Girl, the first of de Lint's books I picked up (I now own seven). As Jilly will tell you, 'Pull back the layers...and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl.' But Jilly's wrong about that; there's more to her than she believes and she's much stronger than she thinks.
It begins with an accident, a very bad accident in which Jilly may have lost the one thing she treasures most, her art. In order to get it back she's going to have to go to some strange places and confront a past that's eager to swollow her whole. What she doesn't know is she's got some great friends who will do anything to save her, even if it means to follow her in those dark places few of us want to revisit.
Favorite passage: "Once upon a time there was a little girl who wished she could be anywhere else in the all the wide world except for where she was. Or more preferably still, she wished she could find some way to cross over into whatever worlds might lie beyond this one, those wonderful worlds that she read about in stories. She would tap at the back of closets and always look very carefully down rabbit holes. She would rub every old lamp that she came across and wish on any and everything..."
Why? Because Jilly is me. Granted a much prettier me and with a far more horrific past than I would ever want to lay claim to. But I've tapped the back of those closets. I've rubbed those same lamps. I've wished upon any and everything I thought might possibly offer me a way out, a way over, or a way in.
Which is why I loved Onion Girl and Jilly Coppercorn whose paintings capture the magical side of Newford. I loved her friends and how loyal they are. And I loved Newford, a city where a door can lead to another world, dreams can offer you a whole other life, and magic lives in the most unexpected places. But most of all I love Charles de Lint for creating this world, a place you'll wish was real so you could go and live forever in Newford with friends like Jilly and Sophie and the Crow girls. This is urban fantasy at its very best.