by Charles de Lint
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
While all of Charles de Lint's Newford novels and stories are part of the same series of books, each one can stand on its own. Widdershins, however, does form a strong diptych with de Lint's 2001 novel The Onion Girl. In The Onion Girl, Jilly Coppercorn, a character who has made cameo appearances in most of the Newford stories, finally got to have her story told, and it was one of the darker stories of Newford's inhabitants. The story ended with Jilly in a wheelchair and her spirit practically broken as she referred to herself as "the broken girl."
Widdershins is the redemptive half of the story, in which Jilly manages to come to terms with both her handicap and the past she had thought she had put behind her for so long. In The Onion Girl, de Lint revealed that Jilly was molested by a brother and a priest, among others. In Widdershins, she finds that no matter how far she has gone physically from her home in Tyson, the memories of those men, and the vile things they did, are still with her.
If Widdershins had been written by a different author, say, Robert Heinlein, it would have simply been a matter for Jilly to summon up her internal reserves to deal with her victimization (although she would never have been so victimized in a Heinlein story). In de Lint's hands, Jilly is able to count of her friends to help her deal with her emotional baggage, although in the end, she must come up with her own solution.
Jilly's story isn't the only one de Lint covers in Widdershins. He also looks at Lizzie Mahone, a musician. As the novel opens, Lizzie finds herself in the woods beset by bogans, nasty fairy creatures on a wilding spree. She is rescued by Grey, one of the native "cousins" and when she buries the remains of Anwatan, a cerva, or deer creature, the bogans killed, she meets Walker, another cerva, leading her into a story of the Otherworld and one which will eventually intersect with Jilly's story.
Anwatan's death is of major importance and appears ready to set off a major war between the "cousins" and the fairy. All of the creatures of power de Lint has introduced in the Newford stories seem to make an appearance in Widdershins and they are all torn between trying to avert a war, trying to rescue Lizzie from the bogans, trying to recover Jilly, or other personal quests. At times, it feels as if de Lint is trying to cram too much into Widdershins, although the book is extremely successful on both the personal level for the characters and on the macrolevel for the politics of the cousins and the fairy. In the end, it almost feels as if de Lint is writing a farewell to Newford.
Widdershins is not a novel to use to introduce a reader to Newford, or Charles de Lint's writings, that distinction can go to any other one of his novels. However it is an excellent continuation of Jilly's story and also provides much that is new to de Lint's magical world.
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