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Muse and Reverie by Charles de Lint
Cover Artist: John Jude Palencar
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323408
Date: 08 December 2009 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Muse and Reverie is another collection of fantasy stories by Charles de Lint. The book contain 13 stories that were published in various places, the beginning in 2001, and no later than 2005. The stories run the gamut from light to dark and all in between. All are entertaining and well worth reading.

The only way I get to read the short stories of some of my favorite authors is when they are collected, since I just don't get enough magazines that publish short fiction to keep up. So, Muse and Reverie allowed me a chance to relax and travel to Newford and other towns and visit with some of my favorite characters and meet some new ones.

The crow girls get a Christmas story, "A Crow Girls' Christmas" where they decide to work as Santa's Helpers, but unfortunately they have a bit of a sugar problem which impacts their new jobs. As usual the crow girls cause confusion and mayhem where ever they go.

There's a couple of stories on art. "Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box" is a moody tale of Lily finding a painting box in the woods. Lily loves to draw and now she has some colors and tools that she didn't make herself. Lily paints what she sees in the forest around her home and builds her skill. She also finds that the forest has some surprises even for someone who has lived there for their whole life. In "Refinerytown" friends of Jilly are putting together a graphic story. Nina and Sophie are hammering out the story and the art when they get a bit of help from someone who lives in the story.

"Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion" is a tale of love gone wrong and how difficult it can be to make things right. It all starts when our narrator stops his cab and picks up a fare -- a fare that asks for more than a ride. Next thing he knows he's helping her rescue her cat, only the cat isn't quite a cat and the ex-boyfriend who stole the cat, well he's more than just a mean guy out to hurt an ex-girlfriend.

"Riding Shotgun" still haunts me even though I read it weeks ago. Our point of view character learns that his father has died and left everything to him. He hadn't seen his father in years, not since his younger brother died in a car accident that he considers his fault. When he goes to his childhood home, he finds his father kept the car and that's when fate or whatever stepped in and gave him a second chance -- a chance to change what happened that day when his brother died. Gifts are always two-edged swords in stories like these and sometimes what you thought was the worst things that could ever happen was actually a good things and trying to change the past can be more difficult than it seems. This was a bit of Groundhog Day and in turns was chilling and sad depending on the outcome of the cycle.

Another story with a do-over theme was "That Radio Clash". What would you do if you had a chance to live your life over? What if you could go back to a choice point where you now know you made the wrong choice -- and change it? Now, what if you could pass that chance on to someone else, no strings attached, would you take that chance?

As you'd expect there are several stories where our world and the otherworld of faerie seem to overlap for a bit, or the strange that lives along side us becomes visible. "Sweet Forget-Me-Not", "Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box", "The Butter Spirit's Tithe", "Da Slockit Light", "The Hour Before Dawn", "Newford Spook Squad", and "In Sight" are good examples.

Then there's the music stories. Not that there wouldn't be a story without the music, but it wouldn't be as rich: "In Sight", "The Butter Spirit's Tithe", and in a minor way "Da Slockit Light" examine this theme.

Each story is a gem -- something to read, ponder, digest, think about, and reread. I guess what I love about de Lint's short stories is that I can read them over and over and still get something new out of them whether that's a new way of looking at life or a renewed sense of hope that things will be okay in the world and, by extension, my life, or even that there are some good people out there -- they may be characters in a story but by existing they imply that they are also in the real world.

If you've never read de Lint before give this collection and try. If you love his work then treat yourself to this collection.

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