Top positive review
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.