Someplace to be Flying – Charles de Lint
One minute Hank is staring into the muzzle of a gun, about to die for trying to save a stranger. The next, a pair of raggedy teenage girls appear from nowhere and the gunman is the one lying dead. There is another world under the surface of Hank’s reality that he didn’t even know existed, and now he is a part of that world whether he likes it or not. But he is not the only one. Surrounded by the eccentricities of his fellow tenants at the Rookery, Rory Crowther is beginning to realise just how strange his friends really are. New arrival Kerry moves in hoping for a life free from her old ghosts, while her twin sister Katy begins to fade away. Lily Collins, searching for the ‘animal people’ from a homeless storyteller’s tales, finds herself the one pursued. The city of Newford is about to become a battleground in a war its human citizens can’t even see, and the person holding the prize doesn’t even know what it is everyone wants.
I like Newford. Charles de Lint’s fictional city is the backdrop to his long-running series of urban fantasies and feels completely real, as though I could go find the place on Google maps. Founded on Native American land by Irish immigrants, it is the crossroads where humanity meets mythology. I have only read a few of the Newford books, from quite late in the series, and felt a little out of my depth with the massive cast of preexisting characters. Someplace to be Flying is earlier than anything else I’ve read and worked well as a stand-alone. If you’re new to de Lint’s work, this is a good place to start. If you’re already a fan, it won’t disappoint, and if you’re just looking for a good urban fantasy, you are in for a treat. de Lint expertly melds the threads of folklore with the gritty reality of urban life and raw human emotion. This book has a large cast of characters and somehow gives them all a sense of individuality, most memorably the crow girls. Reading this story outside while crows cawed from the branches of a neighbouring eucalyptus, I admit I was looking at those birds a little differently when I closed the book.