I’ve been thinking about The Painted Boy for a few weeks without knowing exactly what to say. After all, it’s Charles de Lint, my idol author since the mid 1980s. What could I write that doesn’t come across as super fan-geeky?
Because really, the book is classic de Lint at his best. There’s a great mix of points of view and narrative styles without any head-hopping going on. There are real life problems mixed with mythic themes. There’s wonder combined with cynicism. And there’s coming of age and learning new lessons at any age.
He even managed to avoid the self-absorption that some of his Newford short stories have. By leaving Newford and throwing together Asian and desert American cultures he’s created something new while still playing with the same themes he always does, without falling into the trap of retelling the same story over and over (as other contemporary authors like Sherri S. Tepper and Orson Scott Card have fallen into doing a time or two).
But what I really loved about the book was that it didn’t end after the big showdown. In most novels, the good guy has problems until he (or she) fights the bad guy with the help of the people he’s collected along the way and then everything wraps up quickly. I was surprised therefore to see that I wasn’t anywhere near finished the novel when the big climax scene came.
At first I was confused as well, but then it made total sense. The book isn’t actually your typical good vs bad novel. It’s a coming of age story about the main character in which the main confrontation is only a step along the way, not the end of the growth arch.
So, yeah, de Lint did it again. After twenty-five years of reading his books, he gave me something unexpected and new.
No wonder I’m such a fanboy…