A new Charles de Lint novel is one of the most anticipated events in the fantasy genre, and his readers are rarely disappointed. This holds true for his newest release, another magical tour de force. On the surface an innovative take on online culture and society, at its root it is a story of love and devotion.

This is another entry in the loosely linked series set in the imaginary city of Newford, where magic and myth lurk around every corner. Christy Riddell, a familiar Newford resident, is a writer. His girlfriend, Saskia, believes she was created on a website, and then there's Christiana, his "shadow self," whom Christy believes he imagined into being. At a popular research website called the Wordwood, a mysterious "crash" occurs. Everyone visiting the site at that moment vanishes in front of their computers. Now Christy and his companions must journey into Newford's otherworld, where the Wordwood has a physical presence. They have to rescue those missing and deal with a virulent spirit before it causes more harm.

De Lint works his usual enchantment with words and ideas, and characters that live and breathe, however fanciful they may be. Here is a commentary on our increasingly computerized lives, a gorgeous love story and a heroic fantasy bundled into one masterwork of fiction. (Aug., 448 pp., $27.95)

Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum