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Dreams Underfoot by Charles De Lint

Review by Liara

After loving Someplace to Be Flying, I asked Jojo to recommend some other DeLint books. Of course she told me to read them all, but as this is the first of several chronological story collections, she said it would be a good place to start. Like Someplace to Be Flying, it's set in the fictional North American city of Newford. No previous knowledge of Newford or the characters is necessary.

This book is a little hard to define -- it falls somewhere between an anthology of short stories and a novel. It is made up of separate stories, and it doesn't have one (or even several) overarching plots, but many of the stories have characters in common, and some of them even have connected plotlines. However, the point of this book was not at all in the plots of the stories, but in getting to know the characters and glimpsing the magic that permeates their (our) world (whether they know it or not). Since I liked the second half of this book quite a bit more than the first half, I'll start with the things I didn't like and then the things I liked.

What I Didn't Like

First of all, and this is not DeLint's fault of course, I just am not a big fan of short stories. I like worldbuilding and detail, lots of it, and I like getting close to the characters, and there just isn't much of an opportunity to do this when you only have 30 pages to do it in. So it took me a while to get into this book when I had to abandon a character at the end of each story and pick up someone new. Eventually characters started returning enough for me to get to know them, but until then I had trouble being very involved in the stories. There were a couple stories early on that I felt like I should have been quite sad about, but I didn't care enough about the characters yet to feel it properly.

Another thing I didn't like was the abrupt ending of some of the stories. Several of them just left me hanging way too much and didn't provide enough explanation. I wanted to know what happened! Also, the first few stories all had the same theme, and so by the fourth one it was getting on my nerves. I was fine with the theme itself, but it felt like I was being beaten over the head with it. Thankfully this was only mentioned a couple times after those four stories.

What I Liked

I really liked some of the characters who actually come back, especially Jilly and Meran. I liked most, but not all, of his ideas for the magical creatures and happenings that show up in just about every story. Some of them were delightful, some were creepy, and most were cool, but I guess a few of them were just a bit too weird for me. I really liked DeLint's style of writing and his way of describing things; it flowed very nicely and was easy, but still interesting, to read. He's also good at putting little twists and surprises into the stories, which I loved. Once I got farther into the book, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Grade

Overall, I liked it, I really did -- it just took me a while *l*. I guess it started at about a 3 and worked its way up to a 4 or higher, so I'll give the whole book 3.75 amulets. I think someone who doesn't have my issues with short stories would probably give it a higher grade. However, I definitely want to read some more DeLint -- but maybe a novel next time.


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