Harpist, witch, and tinker--Angharad is all of these and more as she embarks on a quest to save the little magic left in the Kingdom of the Green Isles. A master storyteller who excels in crossover fantasy, de Lint here grounds himself firmly in an imaginary land where hardened ex-soldiers, street urchins, prostitutes, and witch-hunting dogs become heroes when touched by the music of a young woman's sorrow. Fantasy lovers will not be disappointed.
De Lint's ( Spiritwalk ) latest is like an old car on a cold morning--slow to start. The first third of the book follows Angharad--tinker, harper and witch--as she travels through the Green Isles seeking to awaken the inherited magic (``Summerblood'') in those ``Summerborn'' who have forgotten it. This bit is frustrating. But fortunately readers soon come to the main event, the story of a puzzle box with the power to destroy the fey Middle Kingdom, ``the green'' that is the source of the witches' magic. Its current possessor appears to be a wealthy merchant whose hobbies already include collecting the fingerbones of Summerborn (wherein lies their power). Seeking to both defuse the puzzle box and free other witches from the merchant, Angharad travels to the town of Cathal where, with the questionable aid of a reluctant, lame, partially blinded, alcoholic Summerborn war veteran and a vicious, tortured mercenary, she confronts the puzzle box in a smartly executed battle between the characters and their own weaknesses. Although the bulk of the book is engrossing, occasionally de Lint gets sappy, as at the end when ``the green'' is reduced to a 12-step healing device, or in the recurring expletive ``broom and heather'' or when he gets to harping. Then again, de Lint is a musician specializing in Celtic folk music, a fact underlined by an appendix of 13 of de Lint's ``Tunes from the Kingdoms of the Green Isles'' complete with lyrics and music. (Nov.)