"The best change you can make is to hold up a mirror so that people can look into it and change themselves. That's the only way a person can be changed."
Picture [b:American Gods|30165203|American Gods|Neil Gaiman|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1462924585s/30165203.jpg|1970226] if it were bird-themed, set in the nineties, and every character was obsessed with art. Voila, we have Charles de Lint’s Someplace to be Flying.
The folklore is outstanding, the shifts between voices are believable, and although I wouldn't qualify de Lint's style as page-turning, it is immersive.
The slow burn of the narrative allows the reader to become engrossed in a world that feels relatable and believable, and so when magic manifests, it's surprising. We discover things with the characters, which is really exciting.
I wouldn't recommend this novel to someone who has never read de Lint before, or at least to someone who hadn't read other novels set in the Newford universe. While the Newford books are not meant to be read chronologically (their characters intersect, but not in any linear fashion), Someplace to be Flying has a large and complex cast of characters. I've read three of de Lint's other Newford books, and I was still overwhelmed.
That's my main critique. While I found many of the characters to be incredibly compelling, they felt
kind of like gems in a pile of rocks: reading through so many (and often mundane) perspectives felt like work, and the remarkable characters were muted by comparison. Jack Daw's backstory, for example, is both illuminating and heartbreaking. For that chapter alone, I would award this novel 5 stars. But with so much time spent on less-interesting characters like Rory, Hank, Lily, and Kerry, the poignant moments of the novel were weighed down. I understand that de Lint is creating an entire city, here. A community of complex characters that each have their own back stories in different novels. The problem is, while each of their perspectives can be (and were) highlighted, it doesn't mean that they should have
been. Doing so is too ambitious for one novel.
But even with having too many characters to focus on, I can't give this novel less than 4 stars. I think of characters like Cody, Raven, Maida, and Zia, and I know I won't forget them for a long time. Maybe ever. Because they're vivid and complex and I wish the novel could have devoted pages and pages more for each of their perspectives. This is where this review doubles in on itself: I want more of what I'm criticizing most. I want perspectives from the characters I like. I know that other readers will find other perspectives more compelling than I did (I didn't connect with the Kerry/Katy plotline or the Hank/Lily stuff), but I can definitely see how others would. Hell, those were the main characters
Somehow I'm always falling in love with characters on the sidelines.