Review: ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ (Jack of Kinrowan 1) by Charles De Lint

Blurb from GoodReads:

A faceless gang of bikers on Wild Hunt through the streets of present-day Ottawa hurtles young Jacky Rowan across the threshold into the perilous land of Faerie. There, to her dismay, she is hailed as the Jack of Kinrowan, a once-and-future trickster hero whose lot is to save the Elven Courts from unimaginable evil.


So by now everyone and their mother should already know that I am a HUUUUUGE Charles De Lint fan- I’ve now read four of his novels and his entire collected short stories (and I only discovered his work a couple of years ago.) His imagination, descriptions and characters speak to me in a way that is hard to describe, but very powerful. I have often been uplifted, profoundly moved and and intrigued by reading his work, and I adore his intersecting stories set in the magical-realist town of Newford, as well as his exploration of Celtic and Native American myths. So with all this in mind, I was eager to read ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ ( ‘Jack of Kinrowan‘ )- here abbreviated to JOK- the first novella of the JOK series/duology.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable, cheerful and at times exciting read, and I liked the characters of Jacky Rowan (the ‘Jack’ of the title,) and her friend Kate ‘Crackernuts’ Hazel- especially their classically-De Lintian fey names. Most of all  I loved the mischevious ‘hob’ they befriend, who puts magical stitcheries into their shoes, enabling them to run fast and turn invisible. He was adorable, and he reminded me a lot of  cheeky little  Yocky John in De Lint’s short stories. I also liked De Lint’s typical urban fantasy setting- this time in Ottawa- but missed his magical-realist city of Newford, and seeing familiar (and wonderfully memorable) characters  who live in Newford, and often cross paths, such as Jilly Coppercorn, Joe Crazy Dog and Cassie (who I mention here,) and Otherworld folk musicians Meran and Cerin. I also missed De Lint’s Native American influences and whimsical nods to folk music and bands (for instance, in his novel ‘Moonheart’, at one point his main heroine, Sara, mentions listening to a band called Silly Wizard. OMG, how I loved this!) But perhaps that’s getting onto a tangent.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable read, and some of it was well paced, but I didn’t connect to Jacky as much as Jilly Coppercorn, and the beginning of the novel (where Jacky, fragile after a breakup, decides to hack off all her long, blonde hair,) felt too dark and jarring. I mean, sure, she’s heartbroken, but does she really have to cut off all her hair? Why? This, to me, felt too ‘nervous breakdown’ and gave Jacky a fragile, vulnerable air which didn’t fit well with all her ‘derring do’ later on in the novella. The beginning also felt too ‘adult’ for what is ostensibly more a YA novel. Also I wasn’t too keen on the Wild Hunt riding Harley Davidsons- felt a bit too far fetched, a bit gimmicky-and all the scenes with the Laird and the Gruagagh felt a teeny bit dull. Jacky’s mission to rescue the Laird’s daughter felt a bit ‘done before’  and the reinvention of the ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ tale didn’t grab me as much as De Lint’s reinvention of Celtic myths (for example, his short story, ‘Merlin in the Mondream Wood,’ which you can read in full from this collection.) Ultimately, although I would definitely recommend it, I would have preferred this to be set in Newford, and for me it was not as memorable, unique or as gripping as ‘The Onion Girl.’

HOWEVER, having said that, this is just the first novella of the JOK series- the second, ‘Drink Down the Moon’, also features Jacky, but not as a main character, and instead features a handsome folk-music fiddler (no euphemism intended,) named Johnny Faw, who has to rescue both Jacky and the Moon, which has had its power stolen. (Yes, I do mean the actual Moon.) Apparently it also contains both an urban magical setting and faerie romance. (Swoon.) This seems far too up my street to ignore, so I’m looking forward to reading the second part of JOK- probably after I finish De Lint’s ‘Widdershins.’

Overall rating: 6 out of 10

Read if you enjoyed: ‘The Very Best of Charles De Lint’


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