Finally I got to read this book, which I've been dancing around ever since last October when I saw it at the library. Back then, I didn't really know who Jilly and Geordie were, and I didn't know why there was such a big deal about whether or not they would get together. But now, after Dreams Underfoot and Memory and Dream and The Onion Girl, I was ready.
And... of course, it was good! It's Charles de Lint. So automatically it's a step above your average novel. However, I didn't looooove it as much as I loved Memory and Dream, or The Little Country. But that doesn't mean it was anything short of terrific. Rather than being a fantastic stand-alone novel, it felt more like a continuation of a very wonderful, comfortable story with old friends. Which it was. When we last left Jilly Coppercorn, she was The Broken Girl: crippled, unhealed, left with unanswered questions and diminished Light and artistic abilities. Her best friend, Geordie, was in L.A. pursuing a relationship. Her sister tried to kill her. Things weren't looking so great.
So this book is the exception to de Lint's practice of not doing sequel-style novels. This picks up where we left Jilly. It takes place partially in the real world, and partially in the Other World. The Dreamlands. And partially in Jilly's own head. Too complicated to fully go into here, I'll instead focus on the parts that really affected me.
The main thing that impressed me (and always impresses me about de Lint books) is how unfraid of the darkness he is. He is not afraid to Go There. After a series of events leads Jilly to a mirror world in her own head (mirroring her childhood, which is a nightmare), we are faced with the horrors that Jilly has been carrying around with her. Her abusive demon of a brother, Del, is now The Conjurer, where what he says, goes. Her fall-guy imaginary character, an innocent little girl with an enchanted bear, is trying to kill her for leaving her there to take the full brunt of Del's evil ways. And there is seemingly nothing Jilly can do to escape or change the inevitable: she's back in the nightmare. Del has changed her back to her 8-year-old body, and is listing all the ways he's going to make up for lost time. It's horrifying to contemplate.
In desperation, she pulls some of the people closest to her into the world she's created for herself. And... they get destroyed. The horrors continue.
How will Jilly escape? And how can she ever heal these deep, black wounds? Will she ever be whole again? I kept reading to find out how Jilly overcomes her deepest fears and most deeply-held beliefs. I was so glad that de Lint handled this with grace and wisdom, and didn't take the easy way out (with a few exceptions).
There is a lot of Native American folklore/spirit overlap in this book -- a little too much for my tastes. Each character was well-done, but I didn't really get the significance of Grey, even though he was a central character. And I felt that there was too much emphasis put on the distracting cousin/fairy war erupting. I could easily have done without all of that, and instead focused on Jilly and Geordie and how Jilly finally overcame her demons.
It felt a little long. However, totally worth reading for the delightful happy ending which felt very true and right, and now has satisfied my Charles de Lint cravings for awhile. I think also I really love it when he talks about art, and artists, and how art affects the world, and there wasn't as much of that in this book, and I missed it. However, if you're reading all the Newford books, you have to read this to see what finally happens with Jilly! Not to be missed.
And now what? I have Son of a Witch by Gregory Macguire. I also have Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. Both could possibly fit in the Once Upon A Time challenge (I think...). However, first I've got to catch up with my Anna Karenina reading. I have to say that this stretching-a-book-out-for-months thing doesn't work AT ALL for me. I have to pace myself and that's very difficult. I'd rather read it all in one gulp. But, I'll catch up and do some posting over at the Anna K. blog. And then decide what's up next.