By Charles de Lint
Paperback, 560 pages
Jilly and Geordie have been best friends for years, circling around each other but never admitting to themselves just how much they love each other. Caught up in a war between the native spirits of the land and the fairies, the two set off on their first adventure together in years. When Jilly finds herself trapped in her own mind, battling monsters from her past and Geordie is banished even farther away, they finally realize just how much they want to be together.
I’m a big fan of de Lint’s work, though I haven’t read as much of it as I’d like. One of my favorite books is The Onion Girl, of which Jilly is the central character. I enjoyed reading about her magical adventures again and following some familiar and new characters.
Many of de Lint’s novels and stories take place in the fictional city of Newford and Widdershins is no exception. If you’ve read any of his Newford books, you’ll likely come across several characters you’ve met before when reading Widdershins – Jilly, Geordie and Joe foremost among them. This novel describes itself as a stand-alone and while I don’t disagree, I’d suggest you at least read The Onion Girl first. Widdershins delves into Jilly’s past as well as some of the events that happen in The Onion Girl so I think it’s helpful to have some history – plus, The Onion Girl is just a great book!
As I’ve seen in some of his other books, the story is told from the point of view of various characters and some of them are told from the first person perspective and some from the third. It takes a little getting used to, but I don’t mind it. We get a lot of viewpoints in this novel, including that of a shadow girl, a dog and a treekin.
The novel is divided into four parts and there’s a lot going on but the main plotline is that some bogans (little fairy men who tend to be rather violent) have killed one of the cerva (deer) people. The relationship between the native animal spirits and the fairies who came over with the settlers has always been a tense one. The buffalo kin are prepping for war and demanding the bogans be surrendered, while the fairy queen is trying to avoid further confrontations. Jilly and company get caught up in the goings on because fiddler Lizzie Mahone witnesses the bogans at a crossroads on their way back from hunting. Lizzie becomes a target and while she’s saved thanks to the intervention of one of the crow people, Grey, the bogans aren’t done with her.
The plot is far more complex than that, so I’m not going to go into further details or we’d be here forever. Given that the book is nearly 600 pages (with pretty small type), there were definitely times where it dragged. I certainly enjoyed the book overall, but I think it could have been shorter.
I ship Jilly and Geordie so I was invested in their subplot. A good portion of the book revolves around Jilly confronting the demons of her past and it gets pretty dark. While not overly graphic, topics like rape and child abuse are tackled. Another big chunk of the book revolves around the tensions between the fairies and native spirits. That was interesting but at times it felt repetitive as the story progressed.
While there’s a magical war brewing and humans are traveling throughout the spirit realms, the book is really about personal journeys and introspection. There’s a focus on personal beliefs and the beliefs of others and how it effects those around then. I think there’s a pretty strong message here about how everyone matters and the significance of forgiveness.
This quote is a good example:
“Why does it have to be like that? Why does wishing we could all just get along and take care of each other have to be a naive, innocent hope instead of something we could all actually work toward?”
I wouldn’t recommend you choose this as your first foray into the world of de Lint and Newford – maybe start with something a little less heavy, both physically and topically. Though, this book does have a lot of threads that feel very relevant to our current times.
This wasn’t my favorite de Lint or Newford book, but it was a solid read. The characters are definitely what made this one for me. The end was a bit too neat though – it seemed like every plotline was tied up in a neat little bow.
I recommend Widdershins if:
+ You ship Jilly and Geordie
+ You’re familiar with some of the Newford books and you want to tackle something hefty
+ You don’t care that you’ve never read anything else by de Lint; you think fairy/spirit wars, humans traveling through fairy lands, and a woman trapped in her own mind all sound interesting