Here’s the thing about me and Charles de Lint – I almost always start one of his books a little ho-hum about the story, wondering if it was really worth picking up – and then bam – something clicks, the plot takes off, and I’m hooked until the end. This book was one of those books for me.
This is a Newford book, which if you’ve ever read one, you knows there’s a cast of characters that circle around these stories, but it’s principally about Isabelle Copley. When she was in college in the 70s, she was chosen by the brilliant, but reclusive artist Vincent Rushkin to be his student.
Vincent gives Isabelle an incredible gift – the ability to bring her painting to life – but there’s a darkness to his art, one that will exact a heavy toll on Isabelle and her friends.
The action is split between Izzy’s school days, and 20 years later, when she has moved to the family farm in the country, and no longer paints people, only abstract paintings. When one of her friends from the past comes to the farm and asks her to do some paintings in her old style again, it leads to a final showdown between Isabelle and her past.
What I love about de Lint is the incredible realism of his books – these are urban fantasy done right. The central magic to this book – the numena, the people Isabelle brings to life in her paintings – are actually regular people that only want to live their lives once they’re brought into this world.
I also like that his books deal with much larger themes – in this case, child abuse, and child neglect. Not pleasant subjects, but they bring interesting notes to this story.