Charles de Lint,
Jack of Kinrowan
(Tor, 1995)

Jack of Kinrowan is an omnibus volume containing Jack the Giant-Killer (Ace, 1987) and Drink Down the Moon (Ace, 1990). Tor has just released a trade paperback edition under its Orb imprint, and according to the Tor Web site: "Once a title becomes an Orb book, it's our intention to keep it in print as an Orb trade edition...." Certainly, this is good news for everyone.

In the first book, Jack the Giant-Killer, the "Jack" of the title isn't quite what you'd expect. He's a she, a 19-year-old named Jacky Rowan, and there's nothing bold or brave about her. Distraught when her boyfriend leaves her for good, she wanders through the streets of Ottawa and runs smack into trouble.

At first, she believes that she has witnessed a murder committed by a gang of bikers, and indeed she has. But this is no ordinary gang -- it's the Wild Hunt, and their victim was a hob, one of the fiaina or wild, solitary sidhe unaligned with either Seelie or Unseelie Courts. In a heartbeat, Jacky has crossed the line into the realm of Faerie.

To her bemusement, she finds that she is now the Jack, charged with retrieving the horn that controls the Wild Hunt and rescuing the Laird of Kinrowan's daughter from the giant Gyre the Elder and the Unseelie Host. But Jacky finds she has more pluck than she ever realized. Bolstered by her friend, Kate Hazel, a mortal woman with hidden magic of her own, as well as an assortment of Faerie folk, she tackles the job and earns her title.

Drink Down the Moon takes place a few years later. One of the fiaina sidhe, Jenna Pook, is called by a mortal fiddler, Johnny Faw. Johnny is the grandson of a friend of Faerie who, before his death, asked Johnny to go to the riverbank and call the faerie with a fiddle tune. Johnny is not certain why, but he does as his grandfather asks. Jenna gives Johnny a token before she slips away, only to be murdered not long after by a terrible creature that has been stalking the fiaina sidhe.

Jacky, as the Jack of Kinrowan, is brought into the matter, but before long, she herself is captured by the creature. Kate Hazel leads a group of faerie to the rescue, not knowing that Johnny is also looking for the creature, aided by Jenna's half sister Jemi. The two groups meet and are allied in the course of the story.

The plots of both books are much more complex that could ever be described here, but they never bog down. De Lint keeps the pace going full tilt, involving the reader immediately. The backdrop of Ottawa adds a delicious dimension as mortals and sidhe coexist on the streets, the former unable to see that latter among them. The characters are (mostly) likable and lively, and Jacky is a heroine after anyone's heart. It is a joy to watch her grow from a timid frightened girl into a resourceful hero, and she makes a darn good role model, too.

This title is a popular one among de Lint fans and is frequently the title that first hooks readers. Thanks to the folks at Tor and their decision to make Jack of Kinrowan an Orb book, it will be thrilling and delighting readers for many years to come.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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