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Newford #7

Forests of the Heart

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In the old century, they called them the Gentry: ancient spirits of the land, magical, amoral, and dangerous. When the Irish emigrated to North America, some of the Gentry followed...only to find that the New World already had spirits of its own, called manitou and other such names by the Native tribes.

Now generations have passed, and the Irish have made homes in the new land, but the Gentry still wander homeless on the city streets. Gathering in the city shadows, they bide their time and dream of power. As their dreams grow harder, darker, fiercer, so do the Gentry themselves -- appearing, to those with the sight to see them, as hard and dangerous men, invariably dressed in black.

Bettina can see the Gentry, and knows them for what they are. Part Indian, part Mexican, she was raised by her grandmother to understand the spirit world. Now she lives in Kellygnow, a massive old house run as an arts colony on the outskirts of Newford, a world away from the Southwestern desert of her youth. Outside her nighttime window, she often spies the dark men, squatting in the snow, smoking, brooding, waiting. She calls them los lobos, the wolves, and stays clear of them -- until the night one follows her to the woods, and takes her hand....

Ellie, and independent young sculptor, is another with magic in her blood, bus she refuses to believe it, even though she, too, sees the dark men. A strange old woman has summoned Ellie to Kellygnow to create a mask for her based on an ancient Celtic artifact. It is the mask of the mythic Summer King -- another thing that Ellie does not believe in. Yet lack of belief won't dim the power of the mask, or its dreadful intent.

Once again Charles de Lint weaves the mythic traditions of many cultures into a seamless cloth, bringing folklore, music, and unforgettable characters to life on modern city streets.

400 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2000

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About the author

Charles de Lint

439 books3,755 followers
Charles de Lint is the much beloved author of more than seventy adult, young adult, and children's books. Renowned as one of the trailblazers of the modern fantasy genre, he is the recipient of the World Fantasy, Aurora, Sunburst, and White Pine awards, among others. Modern Library's Top 100 Books of the 20th Century poll, conducted by Random House and voted on by readers, put eight of de Lint's books among the top 100.
De Lint is a poet, folklorist, artist, songwriter and performer. He has written critical essays, music reviews, opinion columns and entries to encyclopedias, and he's been the main book reviewer for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction since 1987. De Lint served as Writer-in-residence for two public libraries in Ottawa and has taught creative writing workshops for adults and children in Canada and the United States. He's been a judge for several prominent awards, including the Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon and Bram Stoker.

Born in the Netherlands in 1951, de Lint immigrated to Canada with his family as an infant. The family moved often during de Lint's childhood because of his father's job with an international surveying company, but by the time Charles was twelve—having lived in Western Canada, Turkey and Lebanon—they had settled in Lucerne, Quebec, not far from where he now resides in Ottawa, Ontario.

In 1980, de Lint married the love of his life, MaryAnn Harris, who works closely with him as his first editor, business manager and creative partner. They share their love and home with a cheery little dog named Johnny Cash.

Charles de Lint is best described as a romantic: a believer in compassion, hope and human potential. His skilled portrayal of character and settings has earned him a loyal readership and glowing praise from peers, reviewers and readers.

Charles de Lint writes like a magician. He draws out the strange inside our own world, weaving stories that feel more real than we are when we read them. He is, simply put, the best.
—Holly Black (bestselling author)
Charles de Lint is the modern master of urban fantasy. Folktale, myth, fairy tale, dreams, urban legend—all of it adds up to pure magic in de Lint's vivid, original world. No one does it better.
—Alice Hoffman (bestselling author)

To read de Lint is to fall under the spell of a master storyteller, to be reminded of the greatness of life, of the beauty and majesty lurking in shadows and empty doorways.
—Quill & Quire

His Newford books, which make up most of de Lint's body of work between 1993 and 2009, confirmed his reputation for bringing a vivid setting and repertory cast of characters to life on the page. Though not a consecutive series, the twenty-five standalone books set in (or connected to) Newford give readers a feeling of visiting a favourite city and seeing old friends.
More recently, his young adult Wildlings trilogy—Under My Skin, Over My Head, and Out of This World—came out from Penguin Canada and Triskell Press in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Under My Skin won 2013 Aurora Award. A novel for middle-grade readers, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, published by Little Brown in 2013, won the Sunburst Award, earned starred reviews in both Publishers Weekly and Quill & Quire, and was chosen by the New York Times Editors as one of the top six children's books for 2013. His most recent adult novel, The Mystery of Grace (2009), is a fascinating ghost story about love, passion and faith. It was a finalist for both the Sunburst and Evergreen awards.

De Lint is presently writing a new adult novel. His storytelling skills also shine in his original songs. He and MaryAnn (also a musician) recently released companion CDs of their original songs, samples of which can be heard on de Lin

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 180 reviews
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,493 reviews958 followers
June 10, 2013
My third Newford book and probably not my last. I have not been reading them in order, but that's OK, as they can be enjoyed independently. I'm trading being more or less clueless about some of the recurring characters in order to focus on the ones particular to each novel as a stand-alone. Forests of the Heart refers to the notion of Home, the place, geographical as much as spiritual that defines and nourishes us, gives us strength and a feeling of continuity, of belonging to a history larger than our indivudual lives.

The fictional city of Newport sits on the border. On one side are the Manitou, the native spirits who are being pushed away by the destruction of the forests and the expansion of the city. On the other are the Gentry - spirits from the Old World brought across the ocean by the Irish immigrants, adapted to urban lifestyle but trying to carve a realm of their own out of the manido-aki / la epoca del mito / the spirit world. The myth of The Summer King / The Green Man / Lord of the Dance , of the period of summer and revelry being followed by winter and the need for a sacrifice that guarantees the return of spring is central to the story. Guy Gavriel Kay used a similar theme in The Fionnavar Tapestry. The meeting of these two cultures (native ans celtic) was seen in other Newford books. What I found of particular interest in this one is the introduction of a third strain : the Navajo / Mexican / Catholic heritage of the western desertlands, with its shapeshifters, herb-lore, milagros and especially the cadejos - another example of animal spirits in search of a home.

One of the theories embraced by the author is that the artists are more open to the supernatural world than the common people, more ready to accept and to explore the realm of the fantastic. The setting of the book helps, as most of the action takes place around Kellygnow, an artist colony in a suburb of Newford. Ellie Jones is a sculptor who receives a comission from a mystery woman to carve a copy of an ancient mask. Her ex-boyfriend Donal is a painter who holds a grudge against society in general, likes to drink and gets mixed up with the Gentry. Bettina is part Indian part Mexican, an artist model and a mystical healer trained in the spiritual arts by her grandmother ( abuela ). Donal's sister Miky works in a record store and in her free time she picks her accordion and plays in bars to both jazz and Irish folk music. Hunter is the owner of the record store, he gets caught in the plot almost by mistake, but rises to the occasion bravely. Tommy Raven is not an artist, but an Indian young man who provides the link to the Indian comunity through his formidable sixteen aunts. Tommy and Ellie in addition worl as volunteers in an organization that seeks to help the homeless of the big city, another nod at the central theme of the novel, of the need for a home and an identity:

They’re just people, Donal. More messed up than some of us, and certainly more unlucky. And if some of them choose to live the way they do, it’s not because they have some romantic story hidden in their past. It’s because they’re kids whose home lives were so awful they prefer to live in the different kind of hell that’s the streets. Or they’re schizophrenics who can’t get, or won’t take, their medicine. They’re alcoholics, or junkies, or on the run, or all of the above and then some. And the world they live in isn’t safe. It’s more dangerous than anything we can imagine. We go into it, but we can step back out whenever we want. They can’t.

Quite a large number of characters to follow around, but de Lint never falters in the development of the story, proving once again he is a master of the craft. I did have some issues with the author sometimes getting into lecture mode, preaching a sort of New Age gospel, and with the way things wrap up towards the end, when the feel good and think positive ethos kind of gets out of hand, but overall this is another successful treatment of the urban fantasy format. I believe Charles de Lint comes closer than any other author to Neil Gaiman when it comes to big concepts and with integrating diverse mythologies into a coherent imaginary world. But this impression may be helped along by the fact that I've also been reading The Sandman in parallel with this one.
I suggest to give a try to both of them:

“Little mysteries, they’re good for the soul.”
“How so?”
“They keep us guessing.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Well, sure. Mysteries break the patterns we impose upon the world — or maybe let us see them more clearly for a change.”

A final comment about music: I find myself greatly attracted to the playlist provided by the author both in the introduction and all through the text. Not only am I OK with New Age records (Enya, Yanni, Keiko Matsui, etc), but I like to mix them with folk music, jazz, classical, rock and the occassional pop chart hits. Hunter's indie music shop reminded me of the friendly banter and the oddball characters hanging around the shelves in one of my favorite feelgood movies : Empire Records - so consider this as an added attraction for checking out the book.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,256 followers
April 24, 2021
It is not a good idea to enter a fantasy series in the middle. I rarely do it, but it happened with this one. There was really no problem, as the novel is standalone; but I got a little lost in Newford, Charles de Lint's imaginary Canadian town, where the human and spirit worlds intermingle seamlessly. There was a lot of that world to absorb before I could get into the tale proper.

The premise of the story is simple. There are certain spirits called "The Gentry" who have come over from Ireland on the settlers' ships long back - they want to take over the land which is the home of the native spirits. To do this, they invoke the "Green Man" - a composite pagan vegetable deity - by getting Ellie, a sculptor with latent magic powers, to make a mask representing him. However, as is usual in such tales, things get out of hand and the monster starts to run amok. Then it is dependent upon a few hardy and brave individuals, led by the redoubtable Bettina who combines magic from both Native and European traditions, to defeat the monster and bring back normality.

The author's prose is lyrical, and his descriptions of scenes are a pleasure to read. As lover of myth, I loved reading about the magical traditions of different cultures. But that said, I have to say that the story is wafer thin, drawn out over five hundred pages with endless descriptions of places and the thoughts of the various characters. It's a good book if you take it slow, and don't mind the sedate pace. Otherwise you may get bored.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,605 reviews478 followers
September 6, 2013
What happens when people come over and take over? Well, we all know the answer to that question. But what happens to beliefs, to gods, to spirits? Charles de Lint answers that question in Forests of the Heart which deals with a conflict of spirits, both in the magical sense and the sense of self, in the town of Newford. It isn’t so much a question of good and evil, but more of a question what is the best thing to do, how does one make peace, what costs should be paid.
The story takes place over a few days in the middle of a horrible winter storm. The characters are musicians, artists, and the inspiration. The conflicts are about creative energy, perhaps, but also about usage, power, and sorrow. It is a rather very moving novel.
It will also add to your music rotation. Fair warning.
Profile Image for Erika.
189 reviews
March 30, 2007
I am a fan of Charles de Lint's short fiction, and in my opinion that is what he should stick to. He is clearly more adept at that form and length than he is at stretching a story to be novel-length. He skimped too much on details that I felt needed more clarification and breadth while overly emphasizing and rehashing other elements that I understood the first time around. The relationships between the characters and some of the characters themselves weren't terribly believable and seemed contrived (Donal's morose eeyore nature/act in particular REALLY annoyed me.) Another issue was the way in which he approached Bettina's bilingual dialog. I don't know any bilingual Spanish/English speakers that say something in Spanish and then immediately repeat it in English for all their gringo friends, and as someone who speaks Spanish it felt like I was reading the same phrase or sentence two times in a row. Then there were Donal and Miki constantly saying "Jaysus," because clearly if you're Irish you say that every other word.

Regardless, the story was entertaining enough and I especially enjoyed the segments dealing with Bettina, even though Bettina repeating everything in English was annoying. I would definitely recommend one of his collections of short stories over this.
Profile Image for milo in the woods.
429 reviews21 followers
April 3, 2023
i am a charles de lint girl, but this was not a favourite. as always, i love newford and i love the descriptions and i love the ideas for the characters. but i struggled with the main characters in this novel. the side characters i know and love were there and amazing as always.

the main characters are difficult to root for though, which is why this was less successful for me.
Profile Image for Wing Kee.
2,091 reviews29 followers
March 13, 2018
Takes a turn I did not expect.

World: I love the world this time around, this is the first book by De Lint that I have read that covers Latin American, more so Mexican beliefs, myths and lore and I find it fascinating. There are not huge info dumps here but rather storytellers who tell you their tale and that's been a staple of a De Lint book for a while. The pieces of myths we touch on from the First Nations, Irish to Mexican is really fascinating when it crash together and interact, it's mesmerizing.

Story: Well paced, beautifully written and full of magic and depth. I love De Lint books because of how nonchalant the magic is and also how real the characters are. Once again the main themes are people who fall into the cracks and the magic that we don't see if we don't stop and look. This time around there is an protagonist (well protagonists) and antagonists and it's interesting. The idea of the Gentry and how they interact with local spirits is fantastic. I didn't see the book turning the way it did, I thought this would be good versus evil with a final showdown but once again De Lint surprises me and shows that this is not always the solution. It's beautiful, it's meticulous and the interactions are quiet and lovely.

Characters: Where do I start, everyone in this book is fascinating, I won't name them all but the culture clash and the interaction and dialog was pretty fantastic. From the Mexican living away from home, to the punk rocker who works in a record shop and the artists...it's just so good. This is the best part of De Lint so I won't say anything here. As I said the found the Gentry absolutely fascinating.

I really like this book, it has what I've come to expect from De Lint and also a turn I didn't.

Onward to the next book!
Profile Image for Anne.
85 reviews
January 14, 2015
You know the kind of book where, even though you should be a responsible adult and put it down and go to sleep you cannot? And you stay up WAY too late just to see what happens? This book is THAT kind of book.

I popped into the Newford series with this book having not read any of the other ones in the series before it, but I didn't find it disjointed. DeLint's writing is so good you can just immerse yourself in the world he's created and get to know the characters without needing any other back story. The book is filled with contrasts - the forest of Newford/the desert area where Bettina grew up, good/evil, light/dark, spirits/reality - and I loved the fact that the lines between all those contrasts are sometimes blurred and sometimes not.

The concept of a place of the heart really spoke to me. Having moved around a lot both as a kid and in my adult life, finding that touchstone spot that feels like home is a really important thing. I fell in love with Bettina - such an old soul who has to walk thru fire in order to come to terms with who she is. She's such a strong character who ties all the contrasting parts together in a believeable way.

I plan to go back and read the other 1-9 books, and will probably wind up reading the rest of his catalog as well. (Which my dad, who knows me very well, has been after me to do for years. No idea why I have waited so long.)
Profile Image for Jenny.
17 reviews3 followers
December 9, 2007
Probably on my top 3 books list. Its the only book I've ever re-read. It mixes different folklore all together making each side fit together and be equally as likely in the realm of fantasy. loved it loved it loved it
Profile Image for Lorina Stephens.
Author 17 books63 followers
March 21, 2009
Charles de Lint is a master of urban fantasy. Combine that with his remarkable skill as a storyteller, his love of music, Celtic and Native legend and you have a tale that is enchanting, captivating, restorative.

Forests of the Heart returns to de Lint's imaginary town of Newford, and draws heavily from native desert culture pitted against uprooted Celtic culture, all of it existing on an alternate plane that truly is just one step to the left. The Gentry, portrayed as angry, black-clad, cigarette-smoking thugs, are used as dupes by a woman gifted in the ancient arts, who wants nothing more than to achieve immortality through the summoning of the Celtic green man, the Gladsuine. In turn, the Gentry dupe an angry young man into being the host for the summoning, and this, in turn, sets off a chain of events that take the reader from the deserts of Arizona to the ice-ravaged town of Newford.

Always uplifting, often whimsical, Forests of the Heart is a delightful read I will likely return to again and again.
Profile Image for PJ Who Once Was Peejay.
200 reviews27 followers
August 18, 2015
I think this is one of my all time favorites of his books--Newford meets Southwestern myth, and some really satisfying characters and plotting.
Profile Image for Allyson.
Author 2 books64 followers
March 30, 2018
This is the kind of novel for which Charles de Lint is famous, and I really enjoyed it. He masterfully draws together the mythologies of the Irish and Native Americans to create a complex tale that's sensitive to so many differing perspectives. I especially loved how the title “Forests of the Heart” took on multiple meanings as the story progressed (well, actually, it didn’t come together as a phrase/metaphor until nearer the end, but then it was clear how much of the story really had followed that theme all along).

I've never read a book that managed to be so evocative of two such disparate environments (not to mention the woo running just beneath the surface of each). On the one hand, the majesty of the Sonoran desert, home to Bettina and her Southwestern Native family, ancestors, spirits, and gods. On the other, beloved Newford, but also the dark, mysterious forests that once stood in its place and still stand in the "between" world where de Lint's Far-Northern American (Canadian) spirits often dwell. And on top of that, the displaced genius loci, spirits of place, who followed their Irish immigrants over to the New World and found themselves homeless in a land already populated by spirits of place. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods played with a similar idea of deities following immigrants across the sea, but de Lint’s version is somehow less grandiose. Maybe because he’s dealing with spirits more than gods.

The story is full of other wonderful contrasts as well. Bettina herself: Her journeys in the spirit world and the magic her Abuela has taught her live comfortably alongside her love of the Catholic church, and the saints and milagros and shapeshifters and ancient spirits and the Virgin, all of which play an equal role in shaping her life. Setting up Bettina as the primary protagonist of the story is so perfect, since identity is a major theme of the novel, with “forests of the heart” representing our heart home, or the origin point of who we are. Bettina struggles with hers, almost without realizing it. Donal certainly struggles with his as he fights to take control of his destiny and then realizes, once he's gotten his wish, that he was after the wrong thing all along. Hunter and Ellie to somewhat milder degrees also find themselves challenged to reexamine who they are and what they are capable of. Even the spirits are on uncertain footing regarding identity--los lobos, for example, who at first seem to be one thing and are ultimately proven to be something else entirely, and especially one of the "wolves" who is not like the others for reasons too good to spoil by sharing here.

With chapters from alternating points of view, reading this book creates a slow build of tension as you move inevitably toward the moment where all the characters' stories will collide. And boy, collide they do! There's magic and mystery, violence, tragedy, love, and longing all mixed up in here and it is beautiful. I didn't want the story to end. Lucky for me I'm only about halfway through de Lint's Newford cycle!
Profile Image for D.G. Laderoute.
Author 10 books2 followers
January 15, 2014
I've long been a fan of Charles de Lint, ever since I first read Moon Heart in a bush camp back in the early 80s. He's a master of urban fantasy, much of it based around his imaginary city of Newford. Forests of the Heart takes us back there, this time in a story that crosses Celtic, Canadian Aboriginal and New World Spanish/SW American Native folklore.

As usual, Charles gives us a great read. Forests is well-paced, with well-drawn, interesting characters (but...and there is a but, as I'll get to in a moment) and a compelling setting. Newford is hit by a massive ice storm (life imitating art as I write this, just a couple of weeks after Toronto and area was just whacked by the very same thing). The ferocious weather complicates matters for our heroes, who must contend with the inadvertent release of a ferocious monster based around the Green Man, an ancient nature spirit of life, death and rebirth.

I have two problems with the story. First, I think Charles is trying to do too much, with too much material. He delves most deeply into the New World Spanish/SW American Native folklore, which is fascinating stuff--he brings that mythology to sparkling life. Unfortunately, his other two sources of spiritual magic, Celtic and Canadian Aboriginal, get shorted in comparison. I really like his take on the Gentry, aka the Hard Men, Celtic spirits who were dragged in chains of belief to North American by Irish immigrants and then essentially abandoned (echoes of Gaiman's American Gods). He portrays them as sullen, dangerous, cigarette-smoking men, which is a very cool take on ancient folklore. Trouble is, he doesn't do much with them, other than making them menacing and dangerous; he leaves them kinda flat. The Aboriginal Canadian folklore (a favorite of mine) gets even less attention, which is too bad; he doesn't quite evoke its nuances and textures and, again, leaves it rather superficial. I understand why--the book is long and complex enough. Still, I'd rather he'd perhaps omitted one of the mythologies and concentrated on the other two more, rather than focusing on a "three-sided" conflict.

The other issue is related to too much folklore, and that's too many characters. These belief systems all have to be served through characters (and there's a actually a fourth belief system, which is anything that isn't the other three, including skepticism about myth and magic's existence at all). I found it had to keep track of characters and, frankly, wondered why some of them had been introduced in the first place, as they didn't really add much to the story.

That said, I think Forests of the Heart is a fantastic read, and highly recommend it to anyone who loves contemporary and/or urban fantasy.
Profile Image for Patty.
2,322 reviews100 followers
August 7, 2012
I am writing this review of de Lint's novel before I go and read the reviews I have written before. I love the world that de Lint has created; I feel like I have come home when one of his recurring characters appears in a new book; I just settle into his books like I belong there. The real question is why haven't I read all of them. Part of the reason is that I need to be in the right place in my mind and I also just want the time to enjoy them. I believe this is why I read them on vacation.

This story takes place in Newford, de Lint's wonderful city, where magic and "real" life mix. If you read his books, the city will seem familiar and so will many of the characters. Even those people new to this story will obviously belong in Newford. The tale will be somewhat familiar, although for me, that is a big part of the charm. I know much of what will happen in a de Lint novel and that is why I read them. They are good, wonderful tales of what happens when Story (what some would define as magic or fairy tales) meets our reality. Given that Story is very important to me, I love every minute I am in Newford.

I don't want to give away the plot of this particular book. If you read de Lint, you should know that his power as a storyteller is very apparent in this novel. If you have never encountered de Lint's fantasies, I think you should try a short story or two. Then if you are caught, pick any novel set in Newford. I don't think you will be disappointed.
Profile Image for Autumn.
475 reviews13 followers
April 2, 2015
Book #5 I've read from Charles de Lint. I wouldn't recommend this one. It felt very self-indulgent in the world-building details of Newford. Yes, I understand that he wants us to see this as a fully fleshed out, real town with many fascinating characters with the depth and complexity of real people. But do we need SO many characters in a book? Do we need to know the musical tastes of almost all of them? The book was so off-center. Starting it, I was hoping it would focus on Bettina and her desert magic. Her backstory was fascinating. Could have been a great standalone book. Instead, we have about 6 main characters with fully fleshed out stories and lives, in addition to a number of secondary characters. Way too many details make a book that takes too long to get going. By the time the action started to happen, I was so over this book.

I won't give up on reading this author but I may have to give up on Newford as this is the second Newford book I found to be too long and badly edited.
Profile Image for Marlene.
39 reviews6 followers
June 28, 2016
DeLint, as always, has a triumphant story. Possibly my personal favorite DeLint novel simply because he weaves Native American people's myth with the myth of the Celts. He, at once, shows the differences in the myth and mysteries of the Native Peoples of the America's, (both Mexico and Southern U.S. which were at one point one in the same), and he shows us the beauty inherent in both along with its potential for malice. It is not lost that these are both human characteristics which each person and/or spirit must choose.

In the beautiful manner of Delint's style, he presents to us an allegory of the European invasion of the Native People's land and their subsequent displacement. This theme is concurrent with the hope that both people and spirits now dwelling in the same continent can now to live in harmony, if we only choose to do so. I absolutely loved this book and would recommend this to anyone and everyone.
Profile Image for Mitchell Friedman.
4,566 reviews170 followers
February 16, 2023
A re-read. Beautiful and slow. And I tried to read it slowly. It did get a bit bogged done once we were not quite in our world. Which to be fair, is typically not my favorite part of the Newford stories anyway, but actually worked here fairly well. There was as always a rich set of characters, with other previously known characters just barely on and off screen. The ice storm definitely felt lived in. I've been in those in both Atlanta and Portland. And it definitely slowed down the story, but also contributed to the stakes. 4.5 of 5.
Profile Image for Redsteve.
1,063 reviews15 followers
May 20, 2019
Decent mythological crossover between European Faerie, Native American Manitou and Mexican Brujeria. The Fae in this book are less traditional than in many of de Lint’s previous stories – focusing mostly on the Gentry, a group of displaced Irish Fae who’s attitudes make the IRA Provos seem easygoing and forgiving, and the Greenman. As usual, much of the story centers around the Newford arts and music community. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Jim Leckband.
712 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2018
A smorgasbord of cultural magical traditions in this one - we've got two Native American (Southwest and Prairie), Irish/Gaelic, and English/Saxon traditions all mixed up in an ice storm in Newford. Which is the point as the novel concerns what happens when magic that is rooted to a certain place and people is uprooted. De Lint was mashing up before mashing up was a thing. The only thing missing is the Scandinavian trolls! C'mon!
Profile Image for Kandice.
Author 1 book
October 11, 2009
The first book I ever read by Charles de Lint. I absolutely fell in love with this author after reading this book. I'm always hunting for his books to collect and have read as many as I can find. I don't like to borrow his books. If I can't buy them, I wait until I can find them because they are worthy of being added to my literature collection. I hope he writes for a very long time to come.
Profile Image for Debs.
327 reviews11 followers
September 27, 2016
This book had a long, slow start but it really grew on me. There was a loveliness to how it blended different spiritual traditions, and I found the characters interesting and alluring.
Profile Image for Matthew Rettino.
22 reviews4 followers
September 30, 2017
Does magic exist in the contemporary world? Charles de Lint’s mythic fiction brings supernatural beings into the context of the everyday and Forests of the Heart explores the contact between ordinary people and what he calls Mystery.

Bettina and Adelita are sisters, both partly Mexican, partly Indios, and raised by their grandmother to see la époco del mito, the time of myth. However, as they grow older, Adelita puts the childish stories away, while Bettina becomes trained by her grandmother to become a skilled curandera, or healer. After her grandmother disappears, she comes up north to Newford, the imaginary setting of many Charles de Lint’s novels and short stories, and finds work as a model for a high-end artist’s retreat.

Meanwhile in Newford the folk/Celtic music scene that de Lint writes about so well is thriving even as an especially frigid winter threatens to upset the normalcy of the city. Miki and Donal are sister and brother, a musician and artist, who came years ago to Newford from an abusive family background in Ireland. Hunter, a man who stands out somewhat because he has no artistic leanings at all, owns Gypsy Records, a music record store that forms a hub for local musicians. De Lint provides copious details about the ins and outs of running such a store, likely because he has had experience running his own store. The author’s talent as a folk musician likewise brings an irresistible spark of life to his depictions of the musical communities of Newford.

But it is not into this community that serves as our introduction to Newford. At first we see Ellie, a sculptor, at work with the city’s Angel network, which helps out the homeless. Work is especially needed now that the weather is getting steadily worse. Our first impression of her comes from her heroic act of saving a homeless man choking to death on his own vomit, by giving him a most unpleasant mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Her companion on these outings with the Angel relief van is Tommy, a young Native American whose many aunts seem, to Ellie, to be mythical characters than real women.

When Ellie meets a mysterious man, who may also be a woman, on the streets that night who gives her a business card with the name Musgrave Wood upon it, she feels the first inkling of destiny beckoning to her. Is it a sculptor’s contract or something weirder?

Meanwhile at the Irish pub, Miki, Donal, Hunter, and Ellie grow suspicious about a group of dark strangers who sit in the back of the room to hear the Irish reels. Donal claims that they are hard men, made bitter by years of drunken Irish angst, and that it is better you don’t look at them for too long lest they try to make you their friend–an honour conferred by a punch to the guts. The weird thing is that Bettina, across town, can see them too, standing without winter clothing in the cold snow smoking just outside her window. And she grows steadily more convinced that they derive from the same magic world her grandmother showed to her.

It turns out these dark men are none other than the Gentry, exiled Irish spirits who wander homeless in the city. And they want their revenge against the native manitous, or Mysteries, the rightful spiritual guardians of North America. Their plot to assert dominance over the Mysteries will cause much destruction and draw all of de Lint’s characters into a test against the destructive potential that lies in the bitterness and darkness that all human beings carry deep inside of them.

Although this is not a new novel by Charles de Lint, it is more recent than his classic work Moonheart, a product of the 1980s. I strongly suspect the winter storm was inspired by the ’98 Ice Storm, a turn-of-the-century ordeal that blew out the power in hundreds of cities across the eastern seaboard and is still etched clearly in my memory. The conflict of the musicians/artists against the dark forces of the Gentry gains something of the air of the Fisher King myth, where the salvation of the land itself and its fertility is at stake. What’s so great about this is everyone over a certain age can remember this Ice Storm and feel that much closer to the myth. That’s part of the payoff of setting fantasy novels in the here-and-now.
Profile Image for Eric McLaughlin.
193 reviews9 followers
August 11, 2020
Might be the best new read I've had this year. 5 stars all the way. The surface story was really intriguing.
Poised as a battle for territory between Genii Loci, the native spirits of the land, vs the Gentry, displaced spirits who followed the Irish to American during the potato famine. This story takes place in Newford in a particularly brutal winter. The Gentry are hard men, angry and violent and looking to ressurect the Green Man to help them fight the local spirits so they can take over the land. However, going deeper the human element of this story is about finding your heart, finding the place your spirit resides. Some of the characters have strong magic in them, other not so much, but they are thrown into the middle of this conflict from different perspective and all of them are looking for their hearts.

A beautiful story. excellent mingling of magic, the spirit world, and the human condition.
Profile Image for Michael.
103 reviews10 followers
December 11, 2017
Maybe I was in a weird mood when I picked up this book, but I don't remember the last time I was this excited to read a book. I had never heard of Charles de Lint before so everything about this book was a surprise. The cover looked cool and the description sounded interesting and I've always enjoyed urban fantasy along the vein of the Nightwatch series. Anyway, the story and the magic were such a welcome surprise. The combination of Native American, Irish, and Central American folklore was something I've never encountered before in fantasy and it's all so realised. The fact that these are a series but one where each book is more or less stand alone is even better. This is the kind of book I didn't realize I needed to read to fill the longing for urban fantasy and mythology that American God's by Neil Gaiman had left.
Profile Image for Whitney.
345 reviews56 followers
March 2, 2019
For people who are super into De Lint's stuff: This is one of his better, more grounded, full realized works. It didn't have such an intangible quality to it, mostly because the artsy leads that normally populate Newford were balanced out by characters who were less so. (Tommy, Hunter, Lobo)

For people who don't really know De Lint's stuff: This is a good one to pick up. While there are a few mentions of Jilly (a character that crosses over into plenty of De Lint's stuff), it is mostly a standalone. It combines Southwestern US myths with Irish myths, and it works surprisingly well. Bettina is a refreshing lead, and the villains are full and complex creatures.
24 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2021
This was my first Charles de Lint book, though I think I tried him many years ago but apparently wasn't impressed. I loved this book. He has a real knack for describing highly unlikely things but anchoring them to such realistic settings and people. For the past year or more I have been in such a reading slump, not only not reading much but not enjoying what I have read. This was a real surprise. I will say that I don't think I can read a lot of this author in a row. He is very sweet and my favorite reading tends to be darker. But it's wonderful to know I can turn to him in desperation and he'll be there.
5 reviews
July 5, 2018
Gonna be real with you all, I definitely chose this book based on the cover and genre alone. I love fantasy, and the idea that it's a story not completely divorced from modern life was engaging. It proved to be a fantastic read, like a literary version of the TV show "Supernatural" but with less violence and more of an emphasis on the natural world. Told from multiple perspectives, the, at times, slow build to dramatic tension, seems like a nod to the other books written in this creative universe. So many other stories to tell, why rush it?
26 reviews
October 18, 2018
I like urban fantasy, so from the start I knew I would like this book. There's a curandera of unusual and powerful heritage, a sculptor with inborn power, a record store owner, a guy who drives a homeless outreach van, a brother and sister, magical beings of European descent looking to make their home permanent, magical beings who have been here a long time, a whole host of supporting characters. In a clash for power between old spirits and the new the people pulled in have to try and give some balance.
Profile Image for Jrubino.
981 reviews5 followers
January 11, 2020
The storyline of hidden magic within indigenous people has been overused. This version offers nothing new.

The first 50 pages hits all the same landmarks: old mystic relative, children discovering new supernatural world, disbelieving family. Is there a standard checklist that is issued for these type of novels? If you’re going to tread this overworked ground, then at least have a writing style to lift the material. Just doesn’t happen here.
Profile Image for Matty.
461 reviews3 followers
June 8, 2020
This is my second Newford novel. I didn't like it as much as The Blue Girl - this seemed to take a lot longer to really get into the plot, and had maybe one or two extra narrators that weren't really needed (Hunter, maybe Miki). The mix of folklore from Irish and Mexican cultures was really interesting though, and a lot of the characters were really great and memorable (Bettina, the Creek sisters, Ellie, the good wolf guy, Nuala). Full of imagination, great writing and dialogue.
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