Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

There's something magical about reading a Charles De Lint novel. It's that enchantment of any truly great and enduring author that does more than enthrall you to turn page after page, but once the pages are gone leaves you feel refreshed by bringing out the best in life, instead of helping you escape from all the other aspects of it.

So what can I tell you about The Mystery of Grace? It's beautiful; it's thoughtful; it's funny. It's everything you're expecting of a De Lint novel and elegant in its simplicity.

Is it the best he's ever done? Possibly not. By that I mean that the Newford novels—The Onion Girl, Spirits in the Wires and Widdershins—remain my perfered De Lint works. There's a richness and complexity to their stories. All of the perspectives and subplots weave together in a structural echo of how the stories assert the importance of social inter-connectivity. Those novels also have De Lint's rich and intricate mythos, which is missing in The Mystery of Grace.

It reminds me more of his earlier novel: The Wild Wood. Like that tale, The Mystery of Grace is more focused on one culture of myth, instead of a global synthesis. I still enjoyed De Lint's respectful handling of the Latino spiritualism and found the title character, Grace, believable. The only issue I had with characterization is that after reading the Newford novels, I expect a deeper sense of the secondary characters. As the majority of the story is told from Grace's perspective, I felt like the people populating John's world weren't as solid.

That in itself is an interesting effect—to have a novel where the living feel less real than the dead. However, it reads occasionally as a lack of depth because there just aren't as many layers to flesh out the narrative.

Perhaps best put: If you've never read a Charles De Lint novel, The Mystery of Grace is an excellent entry point. I'm uncertain how identifiable the characters would be to a young adult reader, but there's nothing in the novel—aside from mild sexuality—that a parent should question their 14–18 year old reading.

Plus, as I said, The Mystery of Grace leaves you feeling uplifted. Not in a saccharine way, either. This novel is a balm for the soul. If every act of creation is magic as he says, then De Lint remains one of our most powerful mages.

1 comment:

Sarah K said...

I still have something by Charles De Lint hanging out here that you leant me, which I still have not managed to read. I should get on that. Especially considering this review.