Trader, by Charles de Lint

I love Charles de Lint’s works, ambulance which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone reading this. While Old Favorites Week ended last Friday, pilule circumstances have forced me to review another Old Favorite for Monday. Don’t worry; things should be back on track by tomorrow. For those who haven’t heard of him, drug de Lint is Canadian, writes urban fantasy, and has the most soothing speaking voice I’ve heard.

Max Trader is a luthier — he makes and repairs guitars from his little shop in the funky part of Newford. One morning he wakes up and finds himself not in his own body — he’s in the body of one Johnny Devlin, a small-time con artist and all-around jerk. How did that happen? Can he get back into his proper body? As it turns out, Johnny Devlin is in his body as well. Can they switch back?

The cast of secondary characters — well, at least, ones who aren’t Max and Johnny — are pretty much all female. Zeffy is our primary female lead; her roommate, Tanya, was Johnny’s sometime girlfriend. When Zeffy finds herself strangely attracted to Johnny (who is actually Max), she’s a little weirded out for so many reasons, including loyalty. Nia is another lead; a fifteen-year-old Bohemian/Goth, she thinks school is ridiculous and would rather hang out with Max and watch him carve guitars. She’s having more problems than a mother who wants her to go to school, though — that same mother has been acting strangely recently, and Nia can’t understand why.

The book is told from several different points of view; Max is our only first-person narrator. We do see many parts of the book from other points of view, primarily Zeffy’s and Nia’s. Max is also in present-tense; other sections are not. Most of de Lint’s novels have these switches between points of view and tenses, and they’ve never bothered me. Readers who hate that should consider themselves warned.

De Lint’s descriptions of Max and his craft are perhaps my favorite part of the book. My father plays guitar, so I do know a little bit about the instruments. Max’s stories about his teacher, his early years of guitar-making, and his connection to his father are all wonderful. He describes his connection to the wood in such wonderful terms that it seems to be (at least at the beginning) encompassing every possible aspect of his life and emotions. Woodworkers, instrument-makers, musicians, and the like would certainly enjoy this aspect of the story. I don’t think lay readers would find anything terribly difficult to understand; a good deal of people do know the basic things about guitars, like that they have a neck and a body. Frets are those bars on the neck that tell you where to put your fingers. No other knowledge should be necessary.

Other familiar characters make appearances, such as Geordie, Jilly, Cassie, and Bones. (No, not Bones like the TV show.) This was about the third or fourth Newford novel, though, so many of these characters are still fairly new. Overall, though, it’s quite a lovely book, and one of my favorites. Even though the basic premise could sound a bit hokey, de Lint gives it a new life and makes it fresh and interesting. No prior de Lint knowledge is really necessary, and I’d recommend it to nearly everyone. 5/5 stars.

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