I stumbled upon Charles de Lint in my quest to find fantasy that doesn’t suck, and first read his collection of short stories entitled Muse and Reverie. After enjoying it, I decided to read another of his books. No, not “decided.” It was more like I was addicted to his first book and started going through withdrawal symptoms when I ran out of short stories.
The Onion Girl is a full length novel that focuses on the character of Jilly Coppercorn, an artist in the fictitious city of Newford. The book describes Jilly’s abuse as a child, paralleling her own experience with that of her sister. Both girls experienced similar abuse, but their lives went in very different directions.
Meanwhile, Jilly is hit by a car, and her body is left mostly paralyzed. During her recovery, she takes trips to the spirit world in order to heal her childhood trauma. While the subject matter itself is somewhat depressing, the central message is one of hope and of rising above circumstances.
I really enjoy the way that de Lint merges day-to-day reality with legend and mythology. He does so in such a way that his world is believable (or it would be, if every other character wasn’t an artist) but still full of wonder. Some characters don’t touch magic; others, like Jilly, can’t seem to get away from it. Overall, this was a great read, although I felt quite bad for Jilly and her sister.