Charles de Lint’s The Little Country


Bear with me: this is going to be a somewhat odd review–the short version is “I didn’t like it but I can wholeheartedly recommend it.”

Set for the most part in Cornwall, The Little Country is largely about the connection between music and the realms of folklore. Structurally, it’s a book within a book, alternating (mostly) chapters between the two stories. The framing story1 is what we’d consider the ‘real’ world; Janey, a 22 year old musician who plays Celtic pipes, lives with her grandfather who raised her after the death of his wife and their son/Janey’s father2. Cleaning out her grandfather’s attic, Janey finds a book by her favorite author3, which she’s never seen before–not surprisingly, as it was published in only one volume (i.e. the one she’s holding). As the framing story advances, Janey and her Gaffer are persecuted by a mysterious Order of the Dove who want the book in the Gaffer’s attic badly enough to kill for it, not to mention attempting to destroy Janey’s career and disrupt the lives of her friends and her relationships with them. The internal story, ostensibly that found in the mysterious book, concerns Jodi, niece of the proprietress of a ‘bawdy house’, who is shrunk by the Widow Pender (genuine witch) and her struggle to recover something approximating a normal life with the aid of her own friends and family and a gang of determined guttersnipes combined with the “fair folk” on the other side of a barrier created by the humans’ shift to an iron based culture (among other things).

Despite finding it a bit of a slog myself, I would recommend it without reservation to people just beginning to read in the urban fantasy genre. I think I’ve read too many just about every kind of book at this point; all I can do is sigh upon finishing this book and think “How derivative! How repetitive.” A pity, because had I found it when it was first published twenty years ago, I’d have LOVED it….which is why, despite not being overwhelmed, I would suggest it to anyone interested in the genre. This book at least has an interesting precept: author writes a magical book, which is not only different for each reader but, when read, releases a Magyck connecting the World of Faerie (the source of all artistic inspiration) with the Iron Realms (our scientific rational world, relying on iron, which is as we all know antithetical to the fay people). There’s just a bit too much sex for this to be a proper tween/teen book–a pity, because the book would have worked just as well without the S-E-X scenes and without them would have appealed to a wider range of parents. Er, teens.

1I think. The ending leaves some question as to which is which.
2Janey’s mother ran off to be a porn star years before the action begins
3best known for his books about the “Smalls”, a group of (surprise) small people which may be related to the variety of pixies, leprechauns, brownies and the like. Also her grandfather’s best mate.

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