Charles de Lint: Jack of Kinrowan

Diane McDonough is the author of this review.
  
Jacks have all the luck, and in this fantasy/adventure tale from the pen of Charles de Lint, Jacky Rowan discovers, much to her surprise, just how lucky she is. With the help of best pal, Kate Hazel, a.k.a. Katie Crackernuts, Jacky battles forces she isn’t even sure should exist, in an effort to keep the luck of Ottawa in place.

Actually two novels, Jack of Kinrowan explores the relationships between fairy and human, and magic and reality, and the role of chance in daily life. The Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court, the good and bad of Fairy, having traveled to Ottawa with the earliest settlers, do battle through the parks of the city. As fewer and fewer believe in the Unknown, the power of the Fairy becomes weaker and weaker. Through Jacky, they hope to reinforce the luck and the magic to keep balance in the world.

Jack the Giant Killer, the first novel, introduces Jacky at a critical point in her life. Angst-raddled, she chops off her waist-length blonde hair and escapes her quiet life and dull job to wander the streets of Ottawa. She’s startled out of her reverie by the appearance of a pack of Harley-riding roughnecks chasing down what appears to be a small boy. When the bikers disappear, investigation reveals a little man whose body disappears, leaving behind a jacket and red cap. Donning the cap introduces Jacky to a side of Ottawa she has never seen before. With loyal and practical Kate at her side, Jacky sets off on a quest through Ottawa to find the Horn of the Hunt, encountering a whimsical wizard, the Gruagagh, several small Hobs, a couple of nefarious giants and the last of the Swan Princes. Things magically go right, with Jacky’s quick wit and daring saving her every time.

In Drawing Down the Moon, the second novel, Jacky and Kate play second fiddle to a fiddler and a fairy tied by magical talismans to the dance of the luck of the Moon. Jacky and Kate have taken up residence in the Gruagagh’s Tower and are studying to learn all the magic of Fairy. All this activity draws the attention of a megalomaniacal almost-wizard who freezes Jacky’s body and soul, leaving Ottawa and its luck unguarded.

Meanwhile, Old Tom Faw, a wild and canny fiddler, passes away, leaving his orphan grandson, Johnny, his fiddle and a tiny charm that leads Johnny to Jemi Pook, a pink-haired halfling who wails a mean sax. Tom’s old friend Jenna Pook is mysteriously killed at the same time. As the last of the Fairy to know “the ways of the Moon,” the path of the Moon which keeps luck circulating throughout the world, Jenna’s passing leaves the balance of luck in danger. The Fairy Folk threaten war in the search for her killer.

Charles de Lint weaves an intricate and involving story which is exciting and fun to read. Cleverly mingling folklore and fairy tales, the novels resolutely enforce the Others among us as real and important, and stress a fine connection between what is seen and what is not. Luck, magic, and love bring to life an Ottawa worth seeing — or not.

(Orb Books, 1999) Previously released as Jack the Giant-Killer (Ace, 1987) and Drink Down the Moon (Ace, 1990)

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