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25 June 2010

Review: The Ivory and The Horn by Charles de Lint

When I was at university I took a sociology subject called Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in Popular Culture. Half of the class were sociologists, the other half, like me were either nerds or nerdy sociologists! So the class was an absolute riot. We learnt a lot, and it is fascinating all the cultural motifs present in speculative fiction (√úbermensch and superheroes, Neo is Christ, as well as concepts like Zero Worlds, The Other and The Abject etc). The main assignment was to take all we had learnt and to make a fanzine. That sounds like easy task to you, but the thought behind all aspects of it, as well as appealing to a fan base meant there was a whole semester's work put into it. I got a high distinction for mine, and my lecturer was genuinely interested in my project. I couldn’t choose to do simply "fantasy" or "science fiction", I had to find a niche market. That was about the time I was getting into urban fantasy, so I choose to focus on Alternate Realm Fantasy. I can't remember what I called it, but it was basically dealing with faerie, parallel worlds, heaven and hell dimensions etc. I hooked up with some artists from the World of Froud forum, and my friends contributed reviews, short stories and artwork. I bundled all together in an attractive parcel and made a website. I was just getting into web design back then, so it was built on geocities (in its heyday) and unfortunately when geocities died, I had to move it. I saved a copy of two of my reviews, and I though I would share them with you. Just be warned that these are from when I was 19, so they are fairly... obvious in their youth.

The Ivory and The Horn
A collection of short stories by Charles de Lint


This is the first book of Charles de Lint's that I read. There is a bit of a story to my discovery of his work, so please bear with me and I'll make it a short as I can. A couple of years ago, when I relocated to the city closest to our farm, I became a member of its library. That in itself doesn't sound remarkable but I love reading and had already read out three libraries. This new library was bigger and provided me with so much joy; being a voracious reader is quite difficult with limited resources. As well as having normal multi-genre shelving, there were also three rotating stands full of fantasy paperbacks. Before delving into the rows of packed shelves I would always check these, finding many books I hadn't previously discovered. This is where I met authors such as Elizabeth Moon, Rosemary Edghill, Janny Wurts, Gene Wolfe and Sean Williams. I kept coming back to The Ivory and the Horn but I always seemed to find something more tempting One day I decided to max out my card and I again happened to pick up The Ivory and the Horn, except this time I didn't put it back down. I started reading it on the hour-long drive home but I just couldn’t get into the first story (Waifs and Strays), and decided to read one of my favourite novels instead. As fate would have it, I mislaid the book and didn't return it with the others. A couple of weeks later I was having a book-drought so I picked The Ivory and the Horn again. I skipped the first story but returned to it after I had finished the book. Charles de Lint has a gift of making the every day take on mystical qualities, and reveal the secrets hidden within. This book had introduced me to Newford, a city somewhere in Canada or the northern United States, where there are people such as Bones, Jillly, Coyote, Sophie, Geordie and the Crow Girls. De Lint intertwines Celtic and Native American folklore into the fabric of reality and re-weaves it in such a way that the world becomes a strange new place, while still being the world we are all familiar with. I truly recommend any readers who have not yet discovered Charles de Lint to start their education with this book. It will initiate you in to a whole new world, and nothing will ever be the same again. I would secondly recommend that you skip the first story Waifs and Strays and read it last. It is a great story, but you need to get used to the writing style before attempting it. De Lint has written many stories - novella and novels as well as short stories - and they are all worth reading. He also writes under the pseudonym of Samuel M. Key, so don't forget to check for those books as well. I really recommend Mulengro and From A Whisper To A Scream!

Just FYI, this was written in 2003 when I was 19. God I feel old!

1 comment:

Marg said...

It's been a while since I read a Charles de Lint novel. My library is a bit patchy when it comes to the Newford series. It has some books and not others.

This isn't one of the ones that I have read though.

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