Top positive review
30 people found this helpful
Haunting Tale That Captures The Sonoran Desert
on April 13, 2001
I have been to Tuscon only once, but Terri Windling's tale brought the Sonoran desert town and its surrounding mountains back to life, stirring reminiscences of the sparse yet magical landscape in which the ever-sprawling and ever-growing urban, and thus increasingly incongruous, city is nestled. Through her words I was again able to travel the streets and canyons of Tuscon and the Rincons, experiencing the heat and dust of summer and sandy, dry washes, seeing again the stately, suggestively sentient assembly of saguaro, the ephemeral, blood-red blooms of the ocotillo. And, yes, viewing the saguaro one can truly believe Maria Rosa's bedtime story that at night, when no one is looking, the saguaro gather to dance. In the imagination, Terri Windling has beautifully and magically captured the Sonoran desert with her prose.
While I in part agree with M. Weaver's demanding yet incisive observations, I cannot concur with the harshness of his final ranking and conclusions. True, the book is to a degree somewhat loose of structure, with elements, such as the characters of the Alders, Angelina and Isabella, Tomas only partially realized, seeming to drift in and out of the narrative as needed, their roles only hinted at and never fully realized or completely integrated. The relationship and purposes of the mages, as well as certain other magical elements, are hinted at, but as often as not never clearly revealed as to their true import upon events, remaining as incompletely visible as the spirits seen in the smoke of Tomas' or John's vision fires. And the death of one of the minor spirits at the end seems largely extraneous. But the author has successfully recreated the mystery and underlying magic that should be sensed by anyone walking the arroyos or mountains surrounding Tuscon, a presence felt but eluding exact perception. Perhaps, as in the best of poems that Windling exalts and draws upon in her narrative, meaning is meant to remain elusive, multifaceted and open to interpretation, echoing rather than stating. I don't believe it was the author's intention to define her realm of "fairy," thus demystifying the world of the spirit, as to provide with beauty a glimpse of its mystery. In this she is entirely successful.
I feel, despite the truth of many of M. Weaver's criticisms, that the reviewer has perhaps turned too academically critical an eye at this work, creating categories---"urban fantasy," "Celtic" versus "southwestern" mythology---that ignores much of the emotional and magical tone that uplifts this novel from the ordinary fantasy however one wishes to define or classify it. The author's prose is sure, descriptively beautiful, and obviously heartfelt. If one is willing to suspend for a moment one's often overly analytical eye, and simply experience the story as it unfolds, sharing more in common with narrative folklore than the rarified or intellectual aims of literate fiction, recognizing the inherent simplicity present in traditional folklore regardless of any psychological or symbolic message often disguised beneath, I believe the reader will discover a wonderful and delightfully recreated version of the modern day fairy tale that captures both the tone and intention of its original antecedents. Nor is this work without its share of hidden import or meaning. Highly recommended and well deserving of its awards---even acknowledging M. Weaver's criticisms, four and a half stars.