Book: Forests of the Heart

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Book:

Forests of the Heart

Author: Charles de Lint
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Publisher: Tor Books

In the Old Country, they called them the Gentry: ancient spirits of the land, magical, amoral, and dangerous. When the Irish emigrated to North America, some of the Gentry followed…only to find that the New World already had spirits of its own, called manitou and other such names by the Native tribes.

Now generations have passed, and the Irish have made homes in the new land, but the Gentry still wander homeless on the city streets. Gathering in the city shadows, they bide their time and dream of power. As their dreams grow harder, darker, fiercer, so do the Gentry themselves—appearing, to those with the sight to see them, as hard and dangerous men, invariably dressed in black.

Bettina can see the Gentry, and knows them for what they are. Part Indian, part Mexican, she was raised by her grandmother to understand the spirit world. Now she lives in Kellygnow, a massive old house run as an arts colony on the outskirts of Newford, a world away from the Southwestern desert of her youth. Outsider her nighttime window, she often spies the dark men, squatting in the snow, smoking, brooding, waiting. She calls them los lobos, the wolves, and stays clear of them—until the night one follows her to the woods, and takes her hand….

Ellie, an independent young sculptor, is another with magic in her blood, but she refuses to believe it, even though she, too, sees the dark men. A strange old woman has summoned Ellie to Kellygnow to create a mask for her based on an ancient Celtic artifact. It is the mask of the mythic Summer King—another thing Ellie does not believe in. Yet lack of belief won’t dim the power of the mast, or its dreadful intent.

Donal, Ellie’s former lover, comes from an Irish family and knows the truth at the heart of the old myths. He thinks he can use the mask and the “hard men” for his own purposes. And Donal’s sister, Miki, a punk accordion player, stands on the other side of the Gentry’s battle with the Native spirits of the land. She knows that more than her brother’s soul is at stake. All of Newford is threatened, human and mythic beings alike.

Reviews

Amazon.com

Forests of the Heart is an enthralling voyage into the seamier side of urban magic. Returning to the familiar environs of Newford, where he sets so many of his modern myths, Charles de Lint introduces some of his most memorable characters yet.

The Gentry are ancient spirits of the land, sired in rape and born of woman in the Old Country. When the Irish immigrated to the New World, some of the Gentry came along. Generations later, having no real ties to their new home, they dream dark dreams of wresting the land surrounding Newford from the native manitou spirits. The Gentry’s scheming and plotting draw some of the inhabitants of Newford into a dark and desperate fight against them and a primeval spirit, old as the earth itself but slumbering in la epoca del mito, the myth time.

Bettina, a curandera—or healer—is part Mexican and part Indian. She has recently moved to Newford from the deserts of the Southwest for reasons she can’t understand. She lives in Kellygnow, an art colony perched on a hill overlooking Newford. Earning her keep as a model for the various artists who live and work there, she tries to apply her desert-learned skills and knowledge in the cold, forested surroundings.

Bettina’s fellow Kellygnowians include Nuala, who seems slightly more spiritual than the average housekeeper; Ellie, a sculptor with a very special commission; and the Recluse, a mysterious figure who winters at Kellygnow in one of the outlying private cottages. Donal, an Irish-born malcontent who dreams of better times, joins them, along with Miki, his musician sister, and Tommy, a Native American accompanied by a few of his apparently innumerable aunts. The looming battle against a seemingly invincible foe draws them together and forces them to depend not only upon their skills and powers, but also on hope, trust, and love.

Blending aspects of different cultural legends and myths with his keen insight into human nature, Charles de Lint offers a truly incredible and compelling tale. His specialty is an intoxicating mix of real and fantasy worlds, and Forests of the Heart delivers a delicious punch. With his deft touch and sensitive style, de Lint’s mastery of the urban fantasy tale and his ability as a great storyteller remain unchallenged. —Robert Gately

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