THE WIND IN HIS HEART
by Charles de Lint
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Charles de Lintís first non-YA novel in eight years is The Wind in His Heart, a multi-viewpoint novel set in the Kikimi reservation of the American Southwest, far from his traditional location of Newford, although his characters from Newford do intrude on this distant venue. Although the main character would seem to be Steve Cole, a Caucasian living in solitude on a corner of the reservation, the novel is driven by the actions of a young girl, Sadie Higgins.
While Cole is content to live on his own with some minor connection to the local Indian tribe, when he sees a young girl thrown out of a car in the middle of the desert, he goes to her aid. Sadie tells Steve about her abusive father who has decided to abandon her in the wilderness and Steve takes her to the Indian reservation where the tribe may be able to help her.
With multiple view point characters, de Lint has written a complex novel, allowing himself to split his focus between each of his characters and their backstories. Steve, Sadie, Leah Hardin, a journalist, and Thomas Corn Eyes, a Kikimi with the potential of becoming a shaman, unless he decides to leave his people and their traditions behind, are all slowly revealed over the course of the novel, both from their own points of view and the way they are seen by the other characters. As de Lint explores each character, they become more intriguing and the reader comes to understand them better.
In addition to the main characters, de Lint populates the reservation with secondary characters, some of whom, like reservation policeman Jerry Five Hawks, receive their own viewpoint chapters. These characters, however, are not given the depth of the main characters. Sadieís father, Reggie, is only seen through the way he is seen by other characters. De Lint allows the reader to see into some of Sammy Swift Grassís motivations, but he never fully comes to life. Furthermore, many of the peripheral characters have stories which are summed up off-page and don't come to satisfying conclusions. De Lint does seem to be setting Sammy Swift Grass's story for further exploration in a future novel.
De Lintís characters directly take on injustice in the novel. Leah spends her time in Newford working with underprivileged youths even as she write blog posts about a band whose last hit happened forty years earlier. Upon arriving at the Kikimi reservation to do research in to the band, she learns about the plight of undocumented works and begins to see how trivial her writing has been and how she can focus on a more important injustice. Sadieís treatment by her father highlights abusive relationships in a way that the characters canít ignore.
De Lintís novels use the artistic endeavors as an entry point to the world of magic, and The Wind in His Heart is no different. Leah has her writing, Steve has music, Aggie White Horse has her painting, and the magic engendered by these characters can also consume those characters who donít have magic of their own. Kikimi businessman Sammy Swift Grass has turned his back on his cultureís traditions to open a casino and his disbelief in the lore of the Kikimi causes problems for everyone involved. As a teenager who thinks she knows everything, Sadie Higgins must also deal with magic beyond her understanding.
The Wind in His Heart is in many ways a typical Charles de Lint novel in its treatment of humans and the world of the supernatural. At the same time, it departs from so many of de Lintís novels in its brief mentions of Newford. His fresh setting means The Wind in His Heart is an excellent introduction to de Lintís writings. The reader isnít immediately dropped into a world with a full backstory, but there are enough clues in the novel that a reader who enjoys The Wind in His Heart can track down de Lintís other novels and short story collections to explore more of his world.
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