No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, April 01, 1998

Someplace to be Flying -- Charles de Lint

Hank Walker drives an unlicensed cab: one night he's driving through a rough quarter of the city, and sees a woman being beaten up. He intervenes, and is shot by the woman's assailant. Then two identical teenage girls appear from nowhere. One dispatches the mugger with a switchblade: the other heals both Hank and Lily, the woman he's rescued. Then they wander off, arm in arm.

Hank confides to Lily that he thinks the girls were angels: Lily counters with her belief that they were animal people - the 'first people' who were there when the world began. She's heard tales of them from Jack Daw, an itinerant storyteller. Hank's heard the same stories from the same man: he humours Lily. The story, though, is only just beginning.

Someplace to be Flying draws on Native American mythology: crows, coyotes and the creator-being Raven. In this it's comparable to Terri Windling's award-winning The Woodwife: de Lint, however, focuses on the mundane rather than the mystical. While some may find the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by his heroes and heroines to be rather juvenile, they are real-world problems - of more immediate relevance than the archetypal grail-quests and Battles of Good and Evil.

Not that this is a novel without a Grail, or without villains: it's simply that the stage is human-sized, and the characters have human failings -- even when there is little else that is human about them.

De Lint has acquired a reputation for upbeat, imaginative urban fantasy, and Someplace to be Flying is an enjoyable addition to the canon.

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