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The Painted Boy
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2010
As a longtime fan, and reader of just about everything Charles de Lint has ever written, I was saddened when he moved way from Newford and into the desert southwest with the Memory of Grace. This new story of the Yellow Dragon Clan makes the entire journey more than worthwhile. De Lint has written his most powerful book in a very very long time. Seriously hard to put down, you'll probably end up reading it straight through and giving up most of a night of sleep!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 5, 2010
Charles de Lint is one of a number of adult fantasy writers who are now writing for teens. You should know that Canadian writer de Lint is a very big name in fantasy, having almost single-handedly invented the subgenre of urban fantasy with his Newford stories, in which the world of Faerie overlaps--ruthlessly, if not chillingly--with the humans in a modern city based on Ottawa. (Actually, if he's the father of urban fantasy, then Terri Windling would be the mother!) A talented Celtic folk musician, de Lint often incorporates music and musicians into his work.

I've found that De Lint's books and stories for adult fantasy readers are sometimes slow going, but they are also thoughtful and beautifully written. His new book, The Painted Boy, sends a Chinese American teen with a secret dragon heritage from Chicago to the Southwest. He winds up in an Arizona border town called Santo del Vado Viejo. As a member of the Yellow Dragon Clan, James Li has special powers, but his tough little grandmother didn't teach him how to use them. Instead she taught him focusing exercises which do not seem especially helpful to James when he begins to run into trouble.

James has barely hit town before he is shadowed by gangbangers, and he finds shelter at a small restaurant named La Maravilla with a little help from a girl named Rosalie. She turns out to be friends with a girl named Anna who's the lead singer in a band called Malo Malo--and James is attracted to Anna. But before he can settle in, getting a job at La Maravilla, he has to deal with the adult leader of the Presidio Kings, El Tigre. That huge dragon art on James's back isn't a tattoo at all; instead it reflects his nature as a son of the Yellow Dragon Clan, and his very presence in town is a challenge to El Tigre. James establishes a temporary truce with the man, but eventually things fall apart and James has to take action.

In the meantime, James is learning more about his dragon self. For example, he practices walking in the magical desert world that lies just next to his own, led by a giddy little shapeshifter who's a jackalope girl. He meets a rattlesnake woman with uncertain loyalties and another old woman who used to run the whole region until El Tigre came along and messed things up, among other supernatural people. So what is James's role in all this, and to what extent should he get involved?

I was pleased to note that almost the entire cast of this book is Latino or Asian, though de Lint doesn't make a fuss about that. It's just such a boon to librarians and parents looking for fantasy that shows a broader world! And even though some of the characters are gang members, many more are not. De Lint has a gift for creating likable teen characters, let alone colorful secondary characters. In addition, the desert setting is striking and well used, as is the music of Malo Malo. In fact, Malo Malo's music, along with James and Anna as a couple, evoke the growing mix of cultures that is life in so many cities these days. (I live in L.A., and I used to work near a restaurant that featured both soul food and Chinese food.)

Message-wise, The Painted Boy ends up being very anti-gang. But its preachy moments aren't especially distracting; you'll be too busy cheering for James to figure out how to use his powers so he can protect his new friends from the bad guys. This is basically his coming-of-age story. And if the narrative has an occasional slow spot, overall it flows just fine. Because after 60+ books and a whole lot of music and imagination, Charles de Lint really knows how to tell a tale.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2010
Before picking this book up, I had heard of Charles de Lint, but had never gotten around to giving any of his books a try yet. Well, I will now. I loved this book from the first couple of pages and it never lost my interest. The story is original, the characters likable and the plot well-paced. Charles de Lint, if this book is representative, is a master storyteller and I cannot wait to read more of his books. I may have just found a new favorite!

The only thing that I disliked about this book was some unevenness in the point of view, which may have been sorted out in the finalized copy of the book. Most of the story is told in third person and follows various characters. Occasionally though, a section will be given the heading "Jay" and will be told from Jay's perspective. While this is clear, it does feel a bit like cheating. Either do the whole book from Jay's perspective or do it all in third person. This might not have bothered me had it felt like there was any reason for these four or so sections to be from his point of view; I really do not think that these windows to his thoughts added anything that could not have been done with the third person narration.

Jay has a major task to accomplish and a bad guy to take down, which is typical for a fantasy novel, but that is not the real focus of the novel. The Painted Boy is first and foremost a Bildungsroman, a coming of age story for Jay. The focus is placed on his inner development and not on the external struggle. Do not think that this means the book lacks plot or excitement because of this.

Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 4, 2011
The southwestern US desert seemed like an unusual setting for a de Lint novel at first, but the magic that is characteristic of his stories quickly made itself apparent. Those who have read his work before will recognize the animal spirits before they are explained.

Jay Li is a teenager sent from Chicago to the border town of Santo del Vado Viejo by his grandmother, Paupau. He's got a picture of a golden dragon on his back- not a tattoo, but a design that rose, painfully, through his skin when he was 11. From that time, Paupau trained him intensely, both mentally and physically for his future destiny. What that destiny is, she never said. She doesn't explain any of it, in fact, but only tells him that he is a golden dragon, like herself.

No sooner is Jay off the bus when gangbangers come after him. Their leader wants to see him. He escapes, and runs into Rosalie, aka Our Lady of the Barrio, a teen who takes in all strays that come her way- including human ones. She relies on her gut feeling and has her uncle give Jay a job at his restaurant and a room at his house. For a couple of weeks, Jay finally has a near normal life- no grandmother and her drills, just work and friends.

But of course that can't last. The gangs are ubiquitous and a death occurs. Jay feels responsible and knows he has to find out how to use these powers he's supposed to have.

Sadly, the author strikes the lessons of the story home with a sledgehammer, something I have never seen de Lint do before. It has the subtlety of an After School Special. I was greatly surprised by this. Also, the characters did not have the depth that I'm used to seeing from de Lint. It was almost like they were just there to serve up the morals of the story. But still, the book is worth reading. The magic that de Lint always weaves is there, making the reader really feel that there is magic in place, in land, in the creatures, in the connections we all share. I don't like the desert, but the author made me see the beauty in it. I loved the blending of Native American and Chinese myth. If you're a YA fantasy fan, I'd say give it a try. Just don't expect it to be a warmer, dryer version of Newford.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2013
Granted, this book is meant for younger readers, but there's not much depth here. The story skims along pretty much on the surface of things. I think young readers could have handled the full deLint experience, but maybe this will be enough to pique their interest and lead them to his good stuff. Still, the characters are likable, and it's an introduction to a different culture from the mainstream.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2012
For several years I read every book Charles de Lint ever wrote, devouring them as fast as he could write them. But, having caught up with him, I eventually moved on to other authors and genres. It's been at least 10 years since I last visited de Lint's unique urban fantasy world ... and I'm so happy to be back! Though the setting of The Painted Boy is a desert town in Arizona instead of Newford, Canada, the magic and the mystery are just as strong. And what a pleasure to follow a character who, though a teenager, makes unselfish choices, doesn't whine much about his lot in life, and respects the adults around him instead of trying to thwart them. I can't wait to discover all the other wonderful de Lint stories I've missed in the last few years and I'm filling my to-read list with his works right now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2012
I have always been a fan of Charles DeLint. But I have felt that some of his more recent books were not as good as his earlier work! The Painted Boy was a great read. It has the same fire and magic as his earlier works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2012
Everything about The Painted Boy, except for the characters, feels much older than most urban fantasy. There are shapeshifters, yes, but they're "cousins," not werewolves. I think their connection to the land might come from Native American stories; it does remind me a little of the walkers/avatars from Mercy Thompson. The age of the story also gives it a depth that YA paranormal books often lack.

The Painted Boy follows the journey of Jay, a seventeen-year-old boy who's also a yellow dragon, as he discovers his place in the world, and more specifically, in the town of Santo del Vado Viejo, where he wound up by closing his eyes and pointing at a map. Santo del Vado Viejo is a barria under the thumb of a gang run by a man known as El Tigre, who senses what Jay is before they ever meet. Most of Jay's journey is an inner one, but there's quite a bit going on in this fascinating tale.

The characters in this book are well-rounded and realistic, the kind of people you could believe actually existed, with strengths and weaknesses and real personalities. Jay's uncertainty mixed with his attraction to Anna and his stubbornness made him a great main character, while Rosalie's optimism and faith in Jay provided the perfect balance for Anna's anger. All of the characters had their own stories that quite clearly only brushed up against what's written in the book, which made them feel alive.
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on October 29, 2013
I believe this starts a new story line for Charles de Lint (since I think I have read every book he ever wrote, including the ones he wrote under a pseudonym). It is very different from his Newford tales, but is a terrific story with many interesting new characters. I hope to see more stories surrounding this character or the place he ended up living and the "people" introduced in this book. Very Chales de Lint!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2011
Honestly Charles De Lint is one of the greatest authors of all time. This book is another one of his amazing works. The story is great, the writing is superb! You get hooked from the get go, the story sucks you in. Didn't want to put it down once I started. I highly recommend this this book. Teens and Adults will love this book!
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