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Friday, March 13, 2009

“The Mystery of Grace” by Charles de Lint (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Charles de Lint Website
Order “The Mystery of Grace
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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Award-winning writer Charles de Lint is considered one of the pioneers and masters of contemporary urban fantasy and has authored over sixty-five books of fiction for both adults and children, short story collections, and non-fiction. Notable releases include his groundbreaking debut “Moonheart”, “Jack the Giant-Killer”, “Moonlight and Vines”, “Seven Wild Sisters”, and “Widdershins”. De Lint has also taught creative writing workshops in Canada and the U.S., served as writer‑in‑residence for two public libraries in Ottawa, and has been a professional musician for over 25 years. “The Mystery of Grace” is his first adult novel in three years.

PLOT SUMMARY: On the Day of the Dead at the Solona Music Hall, hot rod mechanic Grace Quintero meets artist John Burns. Grace and John immediately fall for one another, and that would be wonderful, except that they meet two weeks too late.

Now before their relationship can be resolved, they’re both going to have to learn things they don’t know about the world of the living and the world beyond . . . and why it’s necessary to let some things go...

CLASSIFICATION: Living up to the author’s reputation, “The Mystery of Grace” is a magical contemporary fantasy that revolves around life after death, a long-distance love story, and the power of faith. There are some adult themes in the novel, but with its lack of violence and only a few cuss words, I think “The Mystery of Grace” is suitable for younger readers.

FORMAT/INFO:The Mystery of Grace” is 272 pages long. Instead of chapters, the book is broken up into lengthy parts that alternate between Grace’s first-person narratives and John’s third-person POVs. “The Mystery of Grace” is completely self-contained and not part of the author’s Newford series. March 17, 2009 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “The Mystery of Grace” via
Tor Books. Cover art is provided by John Jude Palencar.

ANALYSIS: Charles de Lint is one of those authors I had never heard of before starting
Fantasy Book Critic. Since then, I’ve heard nothing but praise for the author’s work and with his latest offering, “The Mystery of Grace”, I was finally able to experience for myself why Charles de Lint is held in such high regard...

The first thing that really jumped out at me was the accomplished writing. Whether it was his characters, the believable dialogue, his ability to tell a story, or the prose, Charles de Lint’s writing was just excellent and a large part of the reason why “The Mystery of Grace” was such a delight to read. Of the writing, I was most impressed with Charles’ characters and the seemingly effortless manner in which all of the people that show up in the book, both major players and secondary ones, are brought to life with such personality and depth.

The second thing that really jumped out at me was the intriguing story. Without giving away too many specifics, Grace one day finds herself trapped in a strange alternate ‘pocketworld’ full of mysterious rules, like being able to travel back to ‘our’ world two times a year—on Halloween and Walpurgis Night (May 1st). It is during one of these return visits that Grace meets, and immediately falls in love with, John Burns. From here “The Mystery of Grace” alternates between a sweet love story about two people whose feelings for one another cannot be denied despite time and distance, and the overarching mystery of how and why this ‘pocketworld’ came to exist. One thing I really enjoyed about the story was how it kept you on your toes, taking pathways that you wouldn’t expect.

Other things I loved about “The Mystery of Grace” was its ethnicity including the setting of Santo del Vado Viejo and Native American folklore, the book’s fairy tale-like quality with all of its symbolism and double/triple-meanings such as the title itself, and all of the musical references, even though I’m not a fan of rockabilly myself :)

On the flipside, I had a few issues with “The Mystery of Grace”. One, for all of Grace’s charm and sincerity, I thought her character was a bit clichéd. After all, can’t a person be a ‘gearhead’ without having tattoos all over their body or listening to rockabilly? Speaking of which, how many times can rockabilly be mentioned in a book? Seriously, I think I saw the word rockabilly in the book more times than I’ve ever heard it spoken in my life. Another thing that bothered me were all of the little coincidences like Grace’s friend who just happens to be able to see and speak with ghosts, or John’s friend who just happens to be dating a Wiccan who knows someone that “specialized in books on folktales, mysteries, and the paranormal.” Finally, the story itself falters at the end when it introduces an ‘evil bruja’ and starts delving into issues about faith and moving on that took longer than necessary to get its point across.

In spite of these issues though, which are really more minor and personal complaints, I really enjoyed reading “The Mystery of Grace”. I thought it was a wonderfully written, charming, and at times thought-provoking novel that in no way sullies Charles’ reputation as one of the masters of contemporary fantasy. In short, I’m sincerely pleased that I finally took the opportunity to read a Charles de Lint novel, and look forward to reading many more...

3 comments:

Vickie said...

Can't wait to read this! Thank you for the forthright review.

Mishel said...

Great review Robert! I'm really looking forward to reading this one (=

Robert said...

Thanks Vickie & Mishel! I hope you both enjoy reading the book :D

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