Ottawa writer Charles de Lint has carved a successful niche for himself writing contemporary urban fantasy. Many of de Lint’s more popular works are set in the imagined city of Newford, a seemingly nondescript, mid-sized city complete with slums and suburbs but touched with magic and populated by a huge cast of characters. While beloved by de Lint’s regular readers, the Newford universe can be somewhat forbidding to newcomers.
Promises to Keep, de Lint’s newest book, is a novella set in the early 1970s and centred on Jilly Coppercorn, around whom many of his Newford stories revolve. Jilly is an art student at Butler University and in the early stages of recovery from a dark past that included abuse, homelessness, prostitution, and addiction. Through a seemingly chance meeting with Donna, her sole friend from her time at the Home for Wayward Girls, she is thrust into an alternate world. This new world, a city in which it really is possible to follow your bliss and create the life you’ve always wanted, is not as rosy as it first appears: once entered, there is no way to leave.
Through skillful use of flashbacks, readers get glimpses into Jilly’s past and are able to witness many of the pivotal moments that have made her who she is: for example, her meetings with the Grasso Street Angel, who not only helps her get clean but encourages her to help others, an impulse that comes to the forefront time and again in the Newford stories.
Promises to Keep offers a solid and imaginative entry point for newcomers to the Newford mythos.