Author: Charles de Lint
Genre: mythic/supernatural fiction
Series: Newford #16
Pages: 560 (hardcover edition)
Published: May 2006
Clearly, I don't wish to begin reviewing a series at the sixteenth book, but since I've been all-over this series in any way but chronologically, here (at my favorite) is where we will start. Considered a direct sequel to de Lint's acclaimed The Onion Girl - a novel revolving around a character named Jilly Coppercorn - this novel launches the reader once again into Jilly's life, Geordie's charm, as well new friends and old faces. de Lint doesn't just focus on the already-well-loved characters: he creates an in-depth background full of tension, anger and distrust in the struggle between the native fae of America (roots in Native American heritage, etc.) and the continuous influx of new Celtic fae from around the world.
"Charming" and "delightful" are two adjectives easily used to describe Widdershins by the always excellent Charles de Lint. That is not to say it is without darker moments, full of controversial and disturbing contents. This is certainly NOT a YA novel in my opinion: the themes and contents are unremittingly dark, though lightened by Jilly herself and the rest of the awesome characters. Jilly truly has a horrific past behind her: it's what has shaped into the woman made of awesome that she is. Completely relatable, sympathetic and kind Jilly is the best kind of protagonist: the kind you want to hang out with in real life. The best thing about de Lint is that he handles such subject matter, like that of Jilly's utterly brutal childhood, delicately; enough detail and horror are supplied in the narrative to let you know why and how someone has/is suffering but not enough to make you uncomfortable or nauseous. Charles de Lint has an infinitely magical relationship with words: I could read a grocery list by this author and be moved.
Jilly Coppercorn returns, with her usual gang of misfits and wonders of humankind. Another story of her redemption and trials with her brother Del from her early childhood, Widdershins deals with some of the same content as The Onion Girl, but this novel is more about Jilly and Geordie, than just the Onion Girl herself. Jilly still struggles with her guilt over her sister from previous novels: her personal arc in the novel seems to be geared towards redemption and forgiveness. Geordie is one of my literary crushes: a kind, quiet but utterly steadfast man he provides a nice foil to for the manic, always-moving/painting/drawing Jilly. I will say that Del, as once again the bad guy, doesn't just rely on the same old tricks from the previous novels. No, this time his atrocities against Jilly are more cerebral, and thus worse/harder for her to recover. Del is certainly a dynamic antagonist: there's no way any one is on his side, but reading about him is utterly compelling and riveting. It's an interesting though that Jilly represents all that is good and kind, while her own brother torments her and seems to stand for all the hate in the world that Jilly tries to overcome.
Sad, lovely, charming, engaging, impossible-to-put-down, and worth re-reading is exactly how I feel about almost all of de Lint's work and this is no exception. The slow-burning romance is pitch-perfect for both characters involved and I'm not going to lie and say this novel didn't make me tear up a bit. I was honestly quite surprised by the depth of emotion I had over this novel, these characters. I will say that several additions to the story - late in the game - came across as rather deux-ex-machina-y but I didn't mind in light of the whole story/cast. While de Lint can be slightly predictable (especially where Jilly is concerned in particular), I enjoyed the expected outcome and can't wait for the next.