(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

It is little wonder that The Little Country was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Charles de Lint lovingly develops every character, making his descriptions of reality as intriguing and enchanting as his fantastic descriptions. The Little Country does not start as quickly as some of de Lint’s other novels, but this is by no means a slow novel. Three plots intertwine through the course of the text and involve a spectrum of characters.

De Lint spends as much time developing repugnant side characters as he does developing main characters with whom the reader can identify more easily. The characters in The Little Country move and change realistically as a result of their brushes with magic. Lena Grant learns to reach out. Madden learns that there is a chaos he cannot begin to control. The Widow Pender cries for her lost childhood. Davie Rowe, a reformed criminal, gives his life in one last act of altruistic valor.

De Lint easily juggles the demands of three separate story lines: the world of William Dunthorn’s novel, the intrigues of the Order of the Gray Dove, and the struggles of the Littles in modern Cornwall. He manages to blend the best elements of a mystery novel, a fairy tale, and a romance in the context of one book. This gives The Little Country a beguiling texture that does not lose its appeal from chapter to chapter. The true measure of success in any such blending is how well all the story lines merge into one finale and one resolution. De Lint achieves this merger admirably, allowing the characters in the manuscript to reach out and touch the characters in reality. De Lint seems to prefer happy endings. The finale in The Little Country is lovely but also realistic.

The Little Country achieves the desire of most authors, to create a work that touches the world and that can be read differently by any number of readers. The Little Country touches on the philosophy of poetry, of music, and of the human soul in a manner that is delightful and thought provoking.