8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Book That Both Frustrates And Pleases,
By A Customer
This review is from: Yarrow (Paperback)
Based upon the author's critical acclaim, I thought I should get around to reading one of his works. And "Yarrow" came billed as a quintessential example of De Lint's writing. Having read it, I am unsure how soon I'll read another.
There is no question regarding the author's ability to write: the opening chapter declares clearly that he is in control of his craft, and can write lyrically and elegantly when he has a mind to. And the magical elements were masterfully done, weaving various threads of lore into the setting of this urban tale with a believability and wonder reminiscent of Tolkien, McKillip or the best faerie tales. The main characters, are real and well cast, and it is impossible not to take delight in Tiddy Mun. Lysistratus exudes an ancient evil.
So where is the problem? It exists for me in the way De Lint has chosen to structure his book (an organization, I am told, common to all his stories). The novel is composed around several diverse characters, not all of whom play a central role in the story. This in and of itself would not put me off--after all, it is a common device used successfully by any number of authors, George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb to name but two. But De Lint shifts back and forth between his many characters with an alacrity I found disconcerting, often only a couple paragraphs sufficing before he switches to another character, another line of thought. And, at the beginning of the book--the first hundred or so pages--many of these characters and plot threads seem incidental, though I will admit he ties most together before the book's conclusion. Nonetheless, often I found myself just beginning to get into one or another of the characters' tales, only to be abruptly jerked out of their storyline and into another. While I don't require or necessarily desire a linearly constructed tale, I found the structure here intrusive, and more often than not interrupting the flow of the narrative, though, by the end of the book, events flow to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, one of the best that I have recently encountered.
I additionally found the depiction of the main character, Cat Midhir, as a writer, worn and tired. So many authors, from Stephen King to Thomas Mann have drawn upon this device, that to find it again resurrected here as a means of meditating upon sources of inspiration and the writing process seemed stale and somewhat shopworn. Also, I was not enamored with the author's continual name-dropping, both of other speculative fiction writers that he obviously favors, or rock bands it is implied he listens to. This last habit in particular seemed contrived, serving more to announce the author's own "hipness" than any other purpose, and, at one point, unintentionally reveals De Lint's lack of actual knowledge or involvement with the music he associates himself with--the identification of Led Zeppelin with progressive rock is hardly a reference designed to establish the author's musical credibility.
Nonetheless, there is much here to admire, and the inventiveness with which the author approaches establishing his urban fantasy is imaginative and refreshing. I am sure there are many who, tired of the standard swords and sorcery, will find this book both original and enjoyable. And, if the author's Abrupt and peripatetic style of composition is not distracting; you will certainly discover worlds of wonder and richness. However, personally I prefer a story with a bit more meat on the bones, and without the ribs showing.