Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: March 5th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC from Publisher
The magic is all around you, if only you open your eyes….
Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills–until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures–from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People–to find a way to make things right.
In this whimsical, original folktale written and illustrated throughout in vibrant full color by two celebrated masters of modern fantasy, a young girl’s journey becomes an enchanting coming-of-age story about magic, friendship, and the courage to shape one’s own destiny.
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is the kind of folk fantasy that de Lint is most known for. At least, in my circles. His brand of fantasy is half fey, half wild, dealing in ephemeral phases, whimsical. Lillian is a fun character to follow around; she is spunky, adventurous and very opinionated. She will appeal to younger readers for her willingness to travel beyond what is comfortable and take chances where less braver souls would falter.
I particularly like the portion when Lillian first discovers that she has turned into a cat. Her gradual realization and acceptance of this fact feels authentic and funny. The fox is a fun character and makes for a perfect sidekick. The book is a pastiche of different mythologies colliding to create something that is distinct and yet, somehow, feels very Canadian. There is First Nations mythology, there are what seems like Sasquatches and there is transformation.
I like that it is not overtly didactic and though there are some morals, they are hidden within the narrative and not explicit. The illustrations will be amazing in the finished copy. The ARC has rough sketches but I am familiar enough with Charles Vess’s work to be quite confident in the final product without seeing it for myself.
The only thing I found a bit awkward was the twist. I found it rather strained and it had the effect of pulling me out of the narrative as I had to resituate myself in the story. Nevertheless, I found the novel to be interesting and fun. It will appeal to beginning readers with a penchant for fantasy. Recommended.