by Charles de Lint
Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Cover Artist: John Jude Palencar
Review by Paul Haggerty
Tor Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765312860
Date: 12 June 2007 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
This is the book that fans of Charles de Lint's most beloved characters, Geordie Riddell and Jilly Coppercorn have been waiting for. These two have been on an approach avoidance path for far too many years. And finally the universe is going to whack them up beside the head and tell them to pay attention. Unfortunately, Charles de Lint never lets his characters take the easy path, and Widdershins is no exception. Poor Jilly was horribly maimed a few books back and her path to healing hasn't exactly worked out the way people would expect. And now she's going to have to face the worst monsters in the universe ... the ones of her own creation and that reside within her own mind. de Lint has also never been afraid to maim, mutilate, or murder his characters either, which means you'll be on the edge of your seat until the end, awaiting the unknowable future.
Jilly and Geordie were introduced back in 1989, and have become two of de Lint's best known characters (not to slight the other dozen or so, but still). Pretty much everybody I know always thought the two would make a wonderful couple, but de Lint has always had other ideas, and the two remain best friends, even while they fruitlessly search the rest of the gene pool for someone that fits their soul's half as well as the other.
Geordie is currently playing for the local Faerie Court, held there, not exactly against his will, by the magic of the fae which want to keep him close for what they perceive is his best interests. Jilly is still trying to recover from the injuries she sustained in The Onion Girl. And despite having access to the best healing magics that the most powerful spirits would gladly provide, nothing has been able to help her. Something is preventing it, and that something is Jilly herself. The question is: Why?
Newly introduced for this novel are a quartet from a Celtic band, Lizzie, Siobhan, Con, and Andy. Four perfectly normal people, living perfectly normal lives. Until, that is, Lizzie has a run-in with a pack of bogan's at a cross-roads where she has the misfortune to break down. This in turn introduces her to Grey, an old spirit with his own mysterious past and agenda. And the problem with meeting the spirit-folk is that once you've drawn their attention, your life will never be the same again.
Bringing together new characters and old, de Lint at once takes the opportunity to really stick it to our beloved Jilly. Vanishing, body and all, in the middle of the night, she's transported to a nightmare realm of her own creation, where the worst nightmares of her mind a free to walk.
And while her friends will never stop searching for her, the laws of the universe bind even the most powerful spirits. And, to make, matters worse, the unrest between the native spirits, and the imported ones (no matter how many centuries they've been here) is heating up. Killing has started, treaties are being left in tatters, unholy alliances are being forged, and spirits battling for power are pulling all the strings behind the scenes. Finding Jilly in her own personal, sealed-off hell is difficult enough without having to navigate through a war zone at the same time. Not that Geordie is going to let anything short of the destruction of the universe stand between him and Jilly.
The problem with the spirits is that they're not really people. They're forces of nature and as such, aren't really good or evil. Fortunately they do seem to play favorites, and it's nice to know that some of them will most probably side with you, just don't count on it for your life. You never know what other obligations might already be in place.
So where is Jilly? What does she face? How will she overcome it? Will she overcome it? What's going to happen to her friends while they brave the spirit world looking for her? What will happen to them if they do find her? Widdershins is a twisty novel where just when you think things will work out, the rug is pulled out from under your feet; and just when you think all is lost, your groping hand finds the knob of the escape hatch hidden behind you. It's exhilarating and frustrating in turn and it will keep you reading long after common sense says "I only have four hours before I have to get up for work".
If you've like de Lint's body of work to-date, you'll love Widdershins.