The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint. ★★★ 1/2
Note – deals with themes of child abuse and molestation. Know this going in.
For whatever reason, this one didn’t connect with me. I don’t have any specific reasons why. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe I prefer an external plot to an internal one? It also felt like while a lot was being built up, the action never really materialized.
The Onion Girl was my first book by Charles De Lint. I’ve read short stories by him which I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve been tangentially aware that he’s got a fantasy series of stories and books set in a city called Newford and a connecting dream land, but I’ve never actually read any before now. For those interested, I think you could pick up The Onion Girl without having read any of the other books. I completely understood the plot, although at times I could tell that there were references to other characters and stories that I hadn’t read.
I picked up The Onion Girl after ditching a badly written book. I wanted some good writing, and I thought Charles De Lint would carry through. He certainly did. The best quality of The Onion Girl is the writing by far. It’s excellently written and at times gorgeous, which is probably why I liked the setting as much as I did. Towering cathedral forests? Count me in.
But just as I never connected with the book as a whole, I never connected with the characters, which is essential for me to like a book. I felt like I should have liked Jilly. She’s an artist who’s still recovering from a terrible childhood but is always determined to stay as cheerful as she can and help other people. Possibly she was just too wonderful and artsy? Some of the characters in the book did faintly remind me of a few of the wackier art teachers that I’ve had.
I would suggest The Onion Girl, even though I didn’t like it personally. I don’t think there’s any over whelming flaws with the book itself, so if it interests you and you’re looking for lyrically written, dream like urban fantasy, you should consider giving it (or presumably one of the other Newford books) a try.