Saturday, October 12, 2013
Review: Dingo by Charles de Lint
Stats: Young Adult Fantasy, 213 pages, First Published by Firebird, March 2008.
My Rating: 1.5 STARS
I was surprised by this book, very negatively surprised. Charles de Lint is a writer that knows how to write for Young Adult readers without sacrificing good storytelling. He has years upon years of writing experience, his short stories are down right enchanting, and he is the author I deem responsible in making me into a reader again with his book The Blue Girl. But Dingo feels like an entirely different writer, which has me incredibly disappointed and a little angry with this book.
Right off the bat I was a little confused, you see Dingo is not set in Newford. This book is set in a town, as the description says, "close to his beloved, invented city of Newford." Confusing? Yes. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to setting it outside of Newford, but still counting it in the Newford universe.
The story centres around Miguel. He works at the comic book/record store his dad owns even though he isn't all that into comics or records. That's where he meets Lainey, an Australian girl, who has just moved to their sea-side town. However, things get complicated when Miguel learns the secret behind Lianey's oddness and gets tangled up in an ancient bargain that threatens his life and hers (and also her dog's.)
What bothers me the most is that de Lint can do so, so much better then this. The best word I can come up with to describe the level of writing in Dingo this is not masterful, or magical, or wonderful, but stumbling. There was no real flow to the events, there was info-dumping, insane amounts of insta-love, and two manic pixie dream girls.
I really tried to love this book. I tried so hard that I was willing to be in denial and just focus on the good, but I feel let down. When things started to go bad, I hoped that it would get turned around. Maybe, just maybe, it was possible for me to still find something to enjoy in this and then the worst of it hit me.
Miguel reminds me a little of Bella. Yes, Twilight's Bella, that Bella. Miguel started off pretty well, he felt like a real teenage boy, with a very promising foundation for his character. Then he falls head over heels for a girl and essentially promises to marry her after meeting with her just five times and actually considers it. He completely shuns common sense in favour of making out on the beach. I was shocked.
The most well developed character is Miguel's dad. He was awesome, I felt like I knew him. However, the rest of the characters, the ones you're actually suppose to care about, are incredibly underwritten and undeveloped. Miguel didn't even feel like the protagonist by the end of the book, instead it felt like Johnny had taken centre stage.
Even the magical elements didn't impress. The concept was very unique with a Australian mythology twist, but the execution made it feel empty. I can't even explain it in more detail without feeling like I'm spoiling the entire book and that is not a good thing. The reveal of magic isn't a solid central idea, it's the story of the magic, the consequence of magic that make urban fantasy books interesting and engaging.
Don't even get me started on how they get out of the deadly ancient bargain thing. It was one of those things where I wonder how NO ONE THOUGHT OF IT SOONER. Seriously, the big bad had been stuck in limbo for forever and a day and it just never crossed his mind this easy little fix. I mean, come on.
I think part of the reason I'm so disappointed in this is that I champion de Lint's writing. I recommend The Blue Girl any chance I get. Now when I recommend his work I'm going to have to tack on "except for Dingo". I'm just incredibly disappointed and I feel that anyone else who is familiar with his writing will be as well.