on December 7, 2008
There is a myth that is as old as time. The world was created by Raven, the dark bird of mystery, as he stirred magic in an old black pot. The pot created more than the world: it created the Animal People, spirits as old as time itself. They are the First People and they roamed the land, able to change forms.
Out of the pot came the Blue Jay, the Wolf, and The Crow. There also came the Coyote, the Trickster. Always up to no good, he is the outcast of the First People. Most of his mischief is harmless, little tricks to amuse. But sometimes, he causes more trouble; enough trouble to slip through to our world.
Trouble starts when Lily, a photojournalist, goes looking for the famed "animal people" that are supposed to roam around Newford. One night while investigating the stories in a dark part of town known as the Tombs, a strange gray man attacks Lilly. Coming to her aid is Hank, no stranger to the Tombs and the rougher side of life.
He goes to her aid and the man attacks him as well. Lilly and Hank fight there attacker until something distracts him: two small girls who came from nowhere. They finish off the man with small switchblades that fell from their sleeves and Hank and Lilly are left stunned.
Tending to their wounds, pain disappearing at their touch, the two Crow girls sing a soft song with a haunting melody: The cuckoo is a pretty bird, he sings as he flies. He sucks little birds' eggs, and then he just dies.
Dazed from the attack and the subsequent healing of two little girls, Hank and Lilly wander way, changed forever. They can now see the world of Fey, the world of the in between. Unbeknownst to them, they are now entangled in what will become a web of mysteries, a tryst. They have stumbled upon war.
There is murder in the darker underbelly to Newford than either could have imagined. They have stumbled upon the war of the Caenid against the Corboe: Bird against Dog. This is a war where no one is safe and the fate of both worlds will be affected. Hank and Lilly must learn to fight in order to save their lives and the life of others.
And so the story goes...
Charles De Lint has created a novel for the ages. "Someplace to Be Flying" is an incredible voyage through myth, through story, through dreams. This has remained among my favorite of De Lint's novels and perhaps one of his most eloquent. There is layer upon layer of story here and the only way to work your way through them is to become involved in the story.
More involving are all the types of myth within the story: Celtic, Native American to name just a couple. De Lint has managed to weave the story of many people and many different faiths into one whole work that just sings with magic. He has managed to create characters that you can really care about and a story that is part mystery, part myth and part comment on our time.
If you haven't read "Someplace to be Flying," you don't know what you're missing. From the moment the Crow Girls come into the story, you are drawn into a labyrinth of words and dreams. The only way out of the maze is to finish the book; but you may never be the same again.
on September 24, 2005
This is the first time I have ventured into the world of Charles DeLint, who has a staggering 5 books in the Modern Libraries' top 100 novels of the century, as voted by the readers, not the critics. Since I am in the process of reading the novels on that list, I am glad that my first reading of a DeLint book was a positive experience, since I have another four to go.
The story opens with a riveting scene of a man spotting a woman being attacked by a man on the side of the road. Hank, the bystander, gets out of his vehicle in hopes that he might be able to put an end to the violence. Caught by surprise, the attacker stops attacking the woman and points his gun at Hank. The attacker shoots Hank in the shoulder.. It looks as if he is done for until two girls swoop down from the trees and one of them stabs the attacker, killing him instantly. One of the girls kisses Hank on the shoulder and his wound disappears. They do the same to the woman who was attacked, her pain evaporating as well. As soon as the two are healing, the mysterious two girls vanish into the night.
After such a charged opening, I was curious if DeLint had the power to evoke these feelings of awe throughout the entire novel. For the most part, he succeeds. The novel is about a wide variety of characters, all of which have some "animal blood" inside of them. Apparently the world is filled with humans and so called animal people. We have the Cuckoos, the Crow Girls, a Jackdawn, a Raven, and other forms of people that can shed their skins and become animals if they please.
The world was supposedly created by the animal people but over the years they have become less in number, even though some species of them can live forever. Now, a battle is brewing in the world of the animals. Someplace to be Flying is classified as urban fantasy. Although the book contains some interesting "human" characters, the book is mainly focused on this battle that has been brewing for centuries.
In a book like this, DeLint seems to be more concerned about atmosphere and characters than the actual plot and story. After the charged beginning, the book wanders into a level of getting us absorbed in the lives of these people. Many interesting and believable characters are sketched out with great detail and it really feels as if we get to know them all in a very personal way before the story is complete. Some of the dialogue works and sometimes it doesn't, but I appreciate the effort DeLint appears to have shown forth in creating something a little more meaningful than your average fantasy novel.
Is Someplace to be Flying as creative as works such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings? No, not by any means, but DeLint has a fascinating writing style and prose that never left me feeling bored, even though most the novel is buildup rather than delivery. The payoff isn't mind blowing, but it works in its own quiet, absorbing way.
Like all fantasy novels, this is a story of the impossible, and atmosphere is everything. DeLint will not disappoint you in this aspect. I love how most of the novel is told in the shadows and at night. It gives the reader a feeling of mystery and wonder that it couldn't have gained otherwise.
If you don't like fantasy, then perhaps DeLint might not be your best place to start because you need to have some patience and appreciation for the images and characters he creates. Either you will fall in love or respect and admire the land he has created or you won't. Someplace to be Flying isn't about cheap thrills, energy rushes, or eye candy, but it is, for the patient reader, a treat of atmosphere, character development, and rapture that I appreciated. I look forward to visiting the world of DeLint again in the near future.
on June 2, 2000
One of life's greatest pleasures (aside from Belgian chocolates, and these two are best indulged in together!) is tracking down, then opening a Charles de Lint book for the first time. Just reading the acknowledgements sets the scene for the feast of reading waiting and the eclectic quotes and lyrics preceding the story make me wish I had a better knowledge and appreciation of those sources.
When Hank's attempt to rescue Lily from a vicious attacker turns to disaster, the intervention of a pair of almost identical "punky" girls sees the attacker killed, Hank and Lily's injuries miraculously healed, and both of them curiously calm and undisturbed by the experience. But they both realise their home town has whole other layers that each had hardly glimpsed before. Were Jack Daw's stories more than that? Separately and together, they peel back those layers to the very beginning, realising along the way that not everyone is as they seem and 'family' is not necessarily something you're born into.
Charles de Lint makes you believe in a world your rational mind never considered, but for which your soul secretly yearns. His characters are so well defined that, no matter how unique their origins, you feel you would recognise them in a room of strangers. But with the Crow Girls, de Lint's genius for characterisation goes beyond excellence. Try reading their dialogue aloud!
Don't plan on getting much sleep until you turn the last page. Even then, the story might have been told, but the experience will go on.
on May 15, 1999
I usually wait to finish a book before reviewing it, but I feel like venting right now so here goes. When I read a book, I pay attention to details and get a bit ill when things don't add up. And this book contains one glaring error right from the start. (An error to me at least because it makes no sense.) The whole thing with Lily going downtown to haunt the alleys looking for animal people. After she gets home, she is thinking about how she prowled for hours before the assault, "feeling like a cat, invisible." Invisible, huh. At the time Hank found her, she was described as wearing a knee-length black skirt and a pale rose SILK jacket. Real invisible. Who the hell goes sculking around back alleys at night in a skirt and a pink silk jacket? And why does she tell her friends about it if she doesn't want to talk about it? "Hey, thought you might like to know I got mugged last night, but DON'T ask me any questions about it." I expect better from de Lint. I thought "Trader" was great, the first three-quarters of it anyway. The last quarter of the book? Well, you know how goofy de Lint gets when he ventures off into the netheregions. His ideas and thoughts on the "otherworld" are always more interesting than his actual depiction of it. It would be nice if he would write a book that "talked" about it without ever actually going there. Bringing the character Bones (from Trader) back would be a good place to start. So I give this book 3 stars for now. We shall see if that initial impression slides up or down or remains the same. Adios.
on March 16, 2002
I resisted reading something by Charles de Lint for a long time after one negative review from a friend. Finally, I decided to get a book by him one day just to take a look.
I am so glad I did. This was an amazing book, and by far my favorite urban fantasy. I haven't read much in this genre before, but I certaintly plan to now, as well as read more books by de Lint. The characters were great; there's no way you can get through it without loving Zia and Maida (or laughing out loud at their dialogues), and many of the other characters. While at points, especially toward the end, the plot thinned some, and turned just a bit too much into your typical 'let's go save the world from ultimate evil and make everything good' fantasy, the characters and the great background of _Someplace to be Flying's_ world carried it through. All fantasy lovers, even those who normally stick to a less modern type, should read this.
on August 22, 1999
I've only been a fan of Mr. de Lint's works for less than a year (Ah, the shame!) but I've done my best to make up for that. I have most of the books that are readily available in the bookstores, plus some harder to find ones such as Svaha, Riddle of the Wren, and The Wild Wood. His storytelling is absolutely wonderful.
Someplace To Be Flying is one of my favorites - the Crow Girls are a hoot and a half!
His tales have made me look at things a bit differently. Faeries and otherwordly creatures no longer live solely in the deep, dark wood... they've made their way into our cities...
By now it's bound to be obvious - his stories are always going to have somebody from the otherworlds, and I wouldn't like it any other way. If that's not something you like, you should steer clear of these books.... However, you really shouldn't. They are absolutely lovely!!!
on June 24, 2003
For me, this book has all of the strengths (the great ensemble cast, the mythological background, in this case, Native American, and of course, the power of the story itself), and almost none of the admittedly few weaknesses (dialogue tends to ramble a bit in some tales at times) of Charles De Lint.
And then, of course, there are the Crow Girls. Very, very!
There's a lot going on in this story (544 pages worth in the paperback edition), and it's all deliciously satisfying for this reader. In particular, Jack Daw walking into the nest of vermin that tortured and killed his beloved is one of the more compelling and unsettling descriptions of raw violence and vengeance that this reader has encountered from this author.
One of the very best examples of "urban mythology," and if you like that, or you even think you might like that, check it out.
on March 17, 1998
This book is undoubtedly one of Charles de Lint's best novels. It captures the magic and mythos of the Native American legends of the shapechangers and the animal people. He brings to life the ancient legends of Raven, Coyote, Fox, and Crow, through the characters of the mystical corbae; Raven, the engimatic keeper; Coyote, the Trickster who always tries to do good, but always fails; Fox, the canid who has to decides whether he wants to be Trickster's pawn; and the fun, but dangerous Crow Girls. And in the middle of the corbae, are the people that Coyote brought into this world, and whom the ancient enemies of the corbae will destroy to get what they want. The entire story is set in a city much like yours or mine, and could be unfolding at this very moment.
on June 7, 2000
Animal People. The animal characters with human traits and god like powers that are part of the Native American mythology. They're just stories. They aren't real, are they. Are They? They are in Newford. And as they live out their myths sometimes innocent humans get caught in the cross-fire. Meet the Corvae; Jack (jackdaw), Maggie (magpie), Raven and the Crow Sisters as they try to keep the Trickster Coyote from finding Raven's Cauldron and "unmaking" the world. For the freelance photographer, the junk dealer, the 2-bit hustler, the college student and the rest it is both a fantastic adventure and a bloody nightmare.
on July 21, 1999
I've been a de Lint fan for several years, my favorite being the Jack the Giant Killer stories. I thought this was a little different from most of his other works, in that it focused more on the Native American folklore. I was hooked from the beginning, and didn't want to put it down. I liked the intertwining of the characters and their storylines and the way that the stories were sometimes poignant and made me want to cry, but in the end, I felt uplifted and like I had been through a very satisfying experience. A must for any de Lint fan.
P.S. I love the Crow Girls! Read this to meet them if nothing else!