SSM Guest Review: Ten for the Devil by Charles de Lint from Liz De Jager

Title: Ten for the Devil
Author: Charles de Lint
Collection: Tapping the Dream Tree
Publisher: Tor US
Release Date: Out Now

Uch, it’s embarrassing really but I am such a huge fan of Charles de Lint’s books. I still fondly remember discovering a few on my “boyfriend’s” bookshelf (now husband) all those years ago and going: What’s this? And him going: You gotta read it. You need to start here. And then he handed me a copy of Moonheart.

Little did poor Mark realise that he was the creator of a monster.

I love the fact that CDL not only does long novels, he’s excellent at producing short story collections invariably set in and around the town of Newford (his own creation).

My short story I’m reviewing for Gav is taken from Tapping the Dream Tree (signed hardback edition, FYI). It’s the first story in the anthology called Ten for the Devil.

It centres on the musician Staley who is the owner of a very special blue fiddle that plays “calling up music”. Staley inherited the fiddle from her grandmother. She lives in a trailer on an Indian reservation and she’s tolerated as a guest. She spends summer there and travels south for warmer climes during winter. One night, she walks through the forest, playing her music when she spots a cowering rabbit beneath a hedge. She has a double-vision that the rabbit is in fact a scared boy. She picks up the rabbit, confused as to what to do. It looks malnourished and very scared.

Staley is a sensitive and senses that something other has been called near. And whatever it is, it’s not pleasant and it probably wants to eat the rabbit/boy that she’s holding.

We journey with Staley as she tries to figure out what’s going on. She goes to her friend William and explains to him what’s happened. William has not necessarily become used to in your face odd mystical goings on, but he has a plan and introduces Staley to Robert.

Robert is a character with bit parts in some other of CDL’s writing and he is a favourite of mine. I find his story beautiful and bittersweet and I hope he’s still jumping the groove out there.

With Robert’s advice, the three of them, head back to the trailer in the forest and Staley plays her fiddle, this time changing what she plays slightly, in order to jump the groove. As Robert and William watch, Staley disappears, as if stepping through a doorway.

Staley finds herself in the same place, but a different season. Also, there is someone else with her. He offers to play with her, in return for a kiss. Staley is obviously cautious because she senses something different about this hillbilly that’s turned up with his guitar in tow. As their dialogue continues, it’s revealed that it is in fact the devil himself who has turned up to tempt Staley into asking for something, a wish of some sort. What he doesn’t anticipate is someone like Staley. Someone so comfortable in their skin, that the devil has no hold on them and therefor no way to tempt them into asking for something: money, fame, love. And I love the fact that the devil goes off in a bit of a peeve at the end. Hurrah!

I love this story because of Staley. I love this story because CDL always makes me feel that magic is just right there. He makes me look at writers, artists and musicians and see the inspiration and magic behind their art.

Through his writings I’ve discovered a great many things: new artists and writers I never knew of and website such as Endicott Studios.

Through his stories I’ve rediscovered my love for myths and folklore.

If you’ve never tried any of his books in the past because you thought they were twee or maybe urban fantasy and it’s not your thing, rethink that. CDL’s writing is the grandaddy of the urban fantasy / magical realism sub-genre and no one, apart maybe from Terri Windling or Jane Yolen, can hold a candle against him.

Liz de Jager is a force of nature as powerful as she is lovely. She runs My Favourite Books along with her husband Mark. Her passion for the written word is exhausting. She attends events, supports authors and is a women of endless amazing connections. And I tip my hat off to her as she’s someone who, behind the scenes of this, keeps me going.

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