on 16 December 2004
I picked this novel up having read a number of other books by Charles De Lint, and although I haven't checked the detail, this novel reads like an early work. There are a number of good points about this novel; many of the characters, particularly the sub-characters, are given enough detail and contrast in their character to be interesting, one thing that always keeps me interested in a story. The individual chapters are well written, the novel is nicely paced and the premise behind it is thoroughly engaging. There are also downsides, though; the story moves between two distinct storylines that come together in the end, but tends to move between storylines far to frequently to be easily readable. Grouping the chapters together to create longer sections dealing with each storyling would've helped immensely. The central character is also not as believable as some of the other characters; how many folk singers are famous and possessed of good record deals at such an early age? On a very personal note, I know the area the novel is set in reasonably well, and given that the Men-an-Tol has actually been displaced at least once since it was originally created (damned Victorians!) its use in the novel didn't ring true for me. Whilst I enjoyed this book and I've re-read it a few times, it's not what I consider to be one of the author's best works.
on 10 May 2004
I read "Moonheart" and "Yarrow" a number of years ago, and thought they were two of the best stories I've ever read. So, when I was surfing Amazon for more Charles de Lint earlier this month, I ordered "The Little Country", amongst others, expecting the same kind of experience.
I've just finished reading this book, and although I enjoyed it, it's definitely not on a par with "Moonheart", in my opinion. My main gripe was that the main characters seem almost too peachy-perfect with their wonderful friends and relationships. My other grumble was that there are two storylines set in the same town in this book, and I found myself waiting for the two to converge, and they never actually did. This left me almost wondering whether CDL had taken two short stories from the same setting and just put them into one book. That having been said, the fantasy elements of both storylines were authentic and original, and I enjoyed the book enough that I read it in just two sittings, which is unusual for me.
"The Little Country" isn't one of those novels that I will treasure and read over and over again in years to come, but it was an enjoyable read, with both storylines containing an original and interesting plot.
on 20 March 2001
charles de lint knows the cornish countryside like the back of his hand if you went to the places in the book you would feel the absolute magic and power of the story. for a person who does not live there but visits regularly and feels at home you will feel like doing all the things that the characters do even going through the men a tor and chanting and the places that are in the book are all larger than life and twice as powerful in the flesh
I am a big deLint fan, and am sort of reluctant to write this review, but I think I have to. If you read the other reviews closely you will detect a lot of suppressed disappointment. There are a lot of four star reviews that are really three stars, with the fourth star being tossed in because, hey, it's deLint.
I think that the biggest problem is that this is a "book within a book" project, and it's really a "good book within a bad book" project. By that I mean that the fantasy book that is the magical heart of the work is very good and very satisfying. As a stand-alone novella or short novel it would be outstanding. In fact, I would recommend that if you find yourself in possession of "The Little Country" you just read every other chapter, (which would be all of the excerpts from the mystery book).
As for the larger work that frames the whole story, it is a stew of tired conventions. There is a psychotic assassin whose carefully described love of torture is freakishly out of place here. There is an incoherently described secret society of powerful whatchamacallits that is laughably childish. The heroine is of the freeze-in-the-headlights variety, and the hero is so conflicted and indecisive that he is a cypher. Probably worst, every time the protagonists can't figure what is happening or what to do, they visit a wise hermit, or a witch, or a mysterious stranger, who explains the plot to them, tells them all of the facts and developments he has "sensed" or divined, and then tells them all what to do next. This is not even mentioning the goofy secondary characters who are either idiots or shallow whiners, or the sex zombie dust that generates sex scenes explicit enough to keep this off the middle grade reader shelf.
So, if you took a low quality airport bookstore paperback thriller and mixed it in with a wonderful and compelling fantasy story, you'd get this. I'm sorry.
on 27 March 2002
This is an absolutely fabulous little tale that really stretches the imagination. I am a Charles De Lint fan and this book stands all by itself as a very good reason why. You really feel as if you are in a lovely picturesque Cornish village and De Lint's familiar blend of magic and the real world is made all the more believable by his choice of location. I dont want to give anything away to those readers who have yet to pick this book up, but if you have read any of De Lint's books this rates in the top 5 and if you haven't it is an excellent way to be introduced to mesmeric affect of his writing. Don't be surprised if you get a bit lost on the way, because De Lint has the unique ability to guide you back on the right road ensuring that nothing passes you by. A beautifully crafted tale that allows you to remember with crystal clarity your adventures as a child and appreciate them with the nostalgic quality of an adult. Just Marvellous!
on 30 March 2012
This one was recommended by Amanda, though Liz vociferously agreed I should read it, especially when they learned I'd never read anything by Charles de Lint. I do think I scandalised them somewhat with that confession. So I dutifully added it to my basket and read it last Summer during my holiday and due to morning/24-7 sickness it ended up on the backlogged reviews pile. So as such this review will probably not be as in-depth as my usual reviews, but it will be heartfelt, as if I remember it with my pregnancy-addled brain, it really must have made an impression on me! So here goes...
The Little Country was first published in 1991, but has the feeling of harkening back to an earlier era, both in the 'contemporary' setting of Janey's story and in the story told in the manuscript of The Little Country. Janey's story seems to be set in the late seventies to early eighties, while the manuscript is set even earlier. As such to me, the book had a quaint and old-fashioned feeling, which I really rather liked. It took me a few chapters to get into the flow of the book, but once I did I was wholly immersed in De Lint's world.
The book is essentially the interweaving of two stories, the main one being Janey's story, in which she discovers the manuscript of The Little Country and not only finds out there is something magical about it beyond the charming story told within, but also needs to protect the story and its secrets from corporate sharks who want to get their hands on it for nefarious purposes. The other part is the actual story told in the manuscript, which like the book is called The Little Country. This latter story is about Jodi and her adventures when she is turned into a tiny, little person, no larger than a fairy by the village witch. She is saved by the village children and some of the eccentric adults who live there. Both stories are set in Cornwall, which lends an atmospheric and magical feel to both of them.
Of the two, I enjoyed Jodi's story the most, as it resembles a fairytale and has many folkloric elements to it. Her meeting Edern, another traveller who's been turned into a little person by the Widow, is the catalyst for the rest of her adventures and I liked that there was both a hint of romance to their meeting and more importantly a friendship formed that would connect the mortal world with the Barrow World, the world on the other side of the veil, where magic is real and music is its voice.
Janey's story centres on music as well, as she's a well-known, even famous, fiddle-player and music is her life. While Jodi's narrative was my favourite, I did like the more gritty and mystery-like atmosphere of Janey's narrative. She runs into some pretty nasty characters and has to do some serious investigating to keep the manuscript safe. And in Janey's part we do get a full-blown romance, when her ex-boyfriend Felix makes an appearance because he received a letter that Janey needed him, a letter Janey didn't send. I really enjoyed this aspect as well, as Janey and Felix have to learn to trust each other again in the midst of turmoil and plots and chases by the bad guys.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience reading Charles de Lint and I look forward to exploring more of his work. Seeing as he is quite a prolific author, there is a lot to choose from! If you're like I was and have never read any of his work, please pick up The Little Country; it will sweep you away to a magical place and show you what classic urban fantasy looks like, with tramp stamps or vampires anywhere in sight. So thank you Amanda and Liz, for giving me another author I need to catch up on, as ever your recommendation was spot on!
on 18 December 2002
An excellent book, well written, with many characters and a complex plot, set in the Cornish countryside. The fantasy element is well realized and satisfying, and it kept me interested enough to want to read more of his works. I do have a gripe, though; I found the characters just a little to good to be true. Janey is SO perfect, and SO successful at such a young (20s) age (in a notoriously un-lucrative and oversubscribed field of folk music), and she has this PERFECT relationship with her wonderful grandfather, and her ex boyfriend turns up, and guess what? he's rather unrealistically perfect, too. Implausible- though not impossible, I'll agree.
Persevere, and soon events overtake the protagonists and they are forced to be a little less noble, little more flawed, realistic, human.
An unusual work in a genre so often riddled with cliches, it reminded me slightly of Jan Siegel's 'Prospero's children'. It is also long, which is great if, like me, you are a fast reader but want to be absorbed for a little longer than the couple of hours or so it takes to read a short novel.
on 17 January 1999
Set in Mousehole Cornwall, it is sort of two stories in one. When the heroine finds a previously unpublished book in her grandfathers attic hell breaks loose and the world starts to look for her and it.
the enemy are totally unpleasant though I would have expected a little better from an author of his calibre to re tread old ground that the chap with the vicious streak a mile wide is Crowley re incarnated. Please can we give Aliester a break.
My only real gripe with the book is that little seems to happen in it. The book within the book about the smalls seems suitable reading for an eleven year old, if this was the original intent then he pulls it off well. If it was meant for adults, sorry it doesn't work.
Apart from that it was a joy to read, as always you can fall totally in love with de Lint's characters, live the plot and have a good time doing it. The one nice thing about this chaps work is that his characters are normal folk with their feet on the ground, instead of the flight wit folk we are accustomed to having in our fantasy at the moment. TA!
on 18 July 2014
I've read and enjoyed a few books by this author, but this long and rambling tale - or rather two tales, admittedly cleverly linked - really wore my patience. One tale, about a witch who could make people Small - i.e. shrink them - bordered on the ludicrous, while the other, about a mysterious secret order who are after the single copy of a book by a mysterious author was occasionally interesting but equally often tiresome. Every scene is padded out beyond all reason, hence the length of the book. There are long and interminable passages of dialogue where characters repeat what the reader already knows. There's a villain so nasty he isn't believable, a heroine you want to shake, and one or two who have very unlikely changes of heart. There's a neat idea at the core, but wading through all the woffle meant it just got on my nerves, and it may well be the last De Lint book I read.
on 28 July 1999
Alternate chapters intermingle two story lines, which, for me, made it an even harder book to put down. I enjoyed the interplay of the stories and the resolution at the end. (I'm also surprized at the negative review I've just read). This book is less 'horned girls' than some of his other works but just as intreging, magical and well written!