Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

DINGO by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint has been writing solid urban fantasy for adults and young readers since the 1980s. I’ve followed his career off and on through the years because his books have sometimes been hard to find. That appears to be changing, though, because more and more his books are all over the shelves.

The author excels at bringing in different mythologies and cultures to his stories. A Canadian, he’s often tied to Native American myths and legends by choice, but he branches out into other venues. In Dingo, he touches on the Australian Dreamtime mythology with mixed results.

I love his first person narrator. Seventeen year old Miguel is really cool and laidback, and he has an interesting father. His dad is a single parent and ex-biker that runs a music and comic store that provides plenty of pop culture references throughout the story. I loved those.

But when Miguel meets Lainey and her dingo companion, Em, things get twisted in a hurry in the real world. I worked through the surprise reveal about the sisters pretty quickly, but it folds nicely into the story. Soon after meeting Lainey, Miguel’s dreams turn weird and dark. He finds himself dreaming up maggot-filled corpses in his bed and talking to turkeys. I liked the imagery a lot and it wasn’t what I was expecting, so that made it more fun.

Another thing I really liked about the book is Miguel’s relationship with Johnny Ward, one of the town’s bullies. Johnny and Miguel have a history that boils over because the sisters draw them together again. Johnny is like the kids I knew in the small town I grew up in, confused and lost, and having no other choice than to follow what they’ve always known. De Lint obviously grew up in this kind of environment because he knows it so well.

The quest the boys eventually have to undertake is well done for the most part, but I wished there had been more time spent there. I wanted to see more of that world, and experience more of the dangers inherent there. The dreaming sequences seemed to promise more of that kind of adventure, but it runs a little thin at the end.

I wish we’d gotten more of a history of the girls as well. There was a lot left out regarding their past.

However, young readers and urban fantasy fans are going to find a lot to like about this short novel. I read it in a couple of sittings and it flows extremely well, mostly due to the vivid narration and complete likeability of the main character. There are some swear words in the novel that might shock some, but it’s in keeping with the age group. This is one of those fantasy novels you can give to a teen reader that might not get into Harry Potter but wants something different.


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