The Wind In His Heart by Charles de Lint (book review)

So many of the books I enjoy most find their way into my hands by means other than me deciding to buy a copy. In fact, this has happened often enough that when I got a note from writer friend Douglas Smith asking if I’d like to read his friend Charles de Lint’s newest book, I barely hesitated before saying, ‘Yes. Yes, I would.’

Now, I wouldn’t take every recommendation quite that easily, but I like Douglas’ books and I’ve wanted to read de Lint for a while. He has something like seventy books out, though! I hadn’t known where to start. My reading schedule is also rather unpredictable. I never really know what I’m going to read next until I decide that’s what I’m in the mood for right now. My journey into the world of Charles de Lint left me with the feeling he’s going to be one of those authors I can pick up anytime, however.

‘The Wind In His Heart’ is de Lint’s first adult fantasy novel in eight years and it’s an absolutely gorgeous book. Once I started, I found it difficult to put it aside. The story is richly told with deeply invested characters, humor, sadness, history, philosophy and even a little romance.

First, we meet Thomas Corn Eyes, who is sure the cacti across the road from the trading post are moving. Not swaying in the breeze, but shifting position. Moving in the way cacti really oughtn’t to move. For me, the first page of a book is where I’m either intrigued or patient. This small glimpse of ‘another world’ definitely piqued my interest. Already, I had questions.

Next up is Steve Cole, self-proclaimed desert rat. He’s minding his own business, camping out on a ridge overlooking the road, when a car pulls to a halt and a girl is tossed out and left behind. Continuing to mind his own business would be the best course here, but Steve has more heart than sense. He heads down to the road and that’s how we meet Sadie. She’s a troubled kid, and Steve might just be the first person to offer help without expecting anything in return. Not a concept she’s used to or prepared to deal with right away.

Finally, we meet Leah Hardin, a blogger from Newford. As I understand it, Newford appears in quite a number of de Lint’s other novels. I like the idea of this link from the established world of his stories to this new land explored in ‘The Wind In His Heart.’ Leah is after a story. Steve’s story. The one she finds, of course, isn’t the one she came for.

Set on a reservation in the fictional ‘Painted Lands,’ the stories of these four people connect, collide, weave together and come apart in unpredictable patterns. Magic is an important component of this world, but it’s not important that you believe in it. The magic will work around or through you, shifted only by the willing. This isn’t to say there is no danger. This is no children’s fairy tale, though the writing is so soft and gentle that sometimes I became lulled only to realise that, yes, I was reading a story with true consequences.

I love the idea of magic not needing to be conjured but rather engaged with, for those who want to see. This concept fits very well with the Native American setting and with the journey of each of our principle and secondary characters. The world is open before them and they must decide which way to go. Only by opening their eyes and truly considering every path, however, will they be able to choose the right one.

I realise I haven’t said much about the actual story, other than introducing you to the characters and how they arrive on the scene. That’s because this is one of those books where it’s better to go in without too much expectation. The lives of four people are going to be changed forever by the events of this handful of days. For Thomas, it all starts with a moving cactus. For everyone else, it’s a senseless act of cruelty. Masks will be shed, layers peeled back. Talents discovered and true paths revealed, for all involved, even paths that seemed permanently closed at the beginning.

The story is also full of unexpected surprises, such as a dog that can turn into a helicopter. I love books that have me laughing on one page and reaching for the tissue box with another. I came to care deeply for all of these characters, even Sadie, whom I wanted to dislike, but de Lint wouldn’t let me. He has so much sympathy for the injustices of this world. Rather than make excuses for them, however, he has written a novel where unlikely allies can help a young woman find herself and a young man learns that it’s okay to walk his own path. Steve learns how to let go and Leah learns how to grab on.

Honestly, I could sit here creating metaphors for these separate stories for longer than it might take you to read this thoughtful book. You should just go read it for yourself. It’s really quite beautiful.

Kelly Jensen

September 2017

(pub: Triskell Press. 613 page paperback and ebook. Paperback: Pprice: $21.99 (US) £16.62 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-92062-378-7. Ebook: Price: $ 7.99 (US), £ 5.99 (UK). ASIN: B074PD2QR3)

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2 thoughts on “The Wind In His Heart by Charles de Lint (book review)

  • My first Charles de Lint book was titled ‘Greenmantle’, back in 1988. It was set mostly in the County of Lanark/Town of Perth, Ontario area, which is not far from where I live. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked for life on de Lint’s books. At the first rumour of this latest of his books, I was checking out ways to pre-order it. I’m about a quarter of the way through it since yesterday when it popped up in my Kobo e-reader. Love it!!! Highly recommended!!!

    • I was entranced by the first page of The Wind in His Heart! I hope you continue to enjoy the book as much as I did. 🙂


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