Review by Shellie for: Promises to Keep ~ by Charles De Lint
An accessible and life-affirming novella which takes the reader on a trip from the dark stages of addiction and abuse to a kind of whole-ness; set in a realistic and magical setting.
About: Young Jilly Coppercorn, our story's narrator, has not had an easy life. The victim of abuse of various kinds – much of it at the hands of family members - it has been a struggle to stay alive, let alone clean and drug free. Now off the drugs she is turning her life around. Then a good friend, one of her best, turns up and invites her to a concert of sorts. She is a bit worried as this friend is from her old life – her addicted life.
As she steps over doorway into the party she has an unsettling feeling akin to an elevator ride; unbeknownst to her she enters a netherworld. It is very much like our world but in many ways not - as Jilly soon discovers. There she must make a choice to stay in this other realm or to go back to her “real life”. It’s a decision that may help her find and reconcile the darker aspects of herself, the parts she has no desire in accepting.
Thoughts: This is a story occurs in and around Newford – it is also a realistic fantasy series. The 13th in the set, it is a standalone which features Jilly, one of the Newford series readers’ favorite characters. I can understand why. Jilly is wonderful. She is strong and struggling and imperfect. She isn’t tall, beautiful and waifish but artistic, small and messy. I like that, a lot.
Promises to Keep is dark at times, violent at others, it examines many of the issues experienced by young people (adults too) when trying to get and remain clean, as well as dealing with all sorts of toxic childhood experiences. It is also light and life affirming with a believable perspective from the point of view of a female character, which is impressive. I liked that our main character was more concerned with doing positive things like volunteering at a soup kitchen and a nursing home rather than fixing her hair or boyfriend drama.
This is my second Charles De Lint novel. My first was Yarrow, written in 1986 and read some time in the 90’s, which I count as one of my all time favorites. It was read at a time when I could not digest any fiction at all, which tells you something. In Promises to Keep I had damp eyes at times, laughed too, and said I just loved this book out loud more than once. Highly recommended for anyone who is looking for a change from some of the “kick bottom” urban fantasy out there. It is perfect for those looking for lots of realism in their fantasy, but with a more than a touch of the magical. Perfect for artists, musicians, healers and, most of all, those healing themselves. I give this story a 4.5 stars. Perfect for someone like myself who has not read any of the Newford novels; an excellent introduction I’d say.
Charles De Lint: A multiple award winning (Nebula and World Fantasy) writer and musician, he lives in Canada with his life partner. He has been writing stories that contain “mythic” elements for many years. He is considered to be one of the creators or stepping stones in the making of modern urban fantasy and “mythic fiction”. You can find out more via Wikipedia -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_de_Lint
What is mythic fiction? - It is literature that is rooted in, inspired by, or that in some way draws from the tropes, themes and symbolism of myth, folklore, and fairy tales. (Via Wikipedia.)
The Newford series currently has 23 books. The first is Dreams Underfoot, published in 1993, and the latest Muse and Reverie published in 2009. The latter is a collection of short stories. Promises to Keep was published originally in 2007 in hard cover; this review is from its recently published paperback version. For more information see Wikipedia’s page for the series. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newford
Thanks for reading!