(1985) is the fourth novel by Canadian author Charles de Lint (1951- ). De Lint is a frequent World Fantasy and BFA nominee, and won the former in 2000 for his collection Sweetgrass & City Streets
|Cover art by Fletcher Sibthorp|
As the cover notes, this is "a Romany tale," which is to say that the novel is largely based on gypsy lore and culture (which the author admits to not being an expert on, and, my own expertise being less than his, I really don't know enough to evaluate for accuracy). The main character is Janfri, a gypsy who lives among the gaje (i.e., non-gypsies) in Ottowa, whose house is burnt down by an unknown enemy. Meanwhile, another gyspy from Janfri's kumpania is murdered in a bizarre fashion, and the death is investigated by two policemen, Briggs and Sandler who don't have time for any of this magic nonsense. Neither of them actually say, "I'm getting to old for this shit," but I always felt that that would be the next line whenever they showed up. Anyway, many of the gypsies believe that the killer is a dark magician, bent on purifying the gypsies, who he feels have been tainted by modern society. Janfri is sent to find Ola, a young gypsy woman with great power who's the key to stopping the killer. And while Janfri is searching for Ola, the police and the killer are searching for him.
On the one hand, it's neat to see an urban crime mystery set in Canada, which we don't get much of. While the forays into Romany culture were often interesting, I was underwhelmed. As I said before, I don't know enough about gypsy culture to call anything out as wrong, but I couldn't help shake the feeling that the gypsy kumpania in Mulengro was very carefully crafted to be a template of gypsy social groups, kind of like the difference between a model house and a house people actually live in.
In the end, Mulengro is an entertaining horror/urban fantasy/mystery novel, but I don't really see anything to set it apart from other books of the same type.
Just the stats:
Published: Oct 1985 (Ace Books paperback edition), Canada
Placed 12th for 1986 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
Nominated for the 1986 Prix Aurora Award for Prix Casper - English