So I asked the raven as he passed by,
If men had wings and bore black feathers,
it's a long long road
From Locus, January 1998:
The book opens in the Newford slums when Hank?, a jazz-loving cab driver, stops to save a woman being violently assaulted in a dark side-street. When her assailant shoots him as he gets out of his cab, the scene changes. In a flurry of darkness and the sound of beating wings, two mysterious young women appear out of nowhere, killing the man and healing Hank?'s wound. It is a moment that will change the world for Hank? and Lily?, the woman he has stopped to save, forever. Slowly they are introduced to a world of magic which has always existed around them, unseen and unknown, one peopled by figures of myth and legend, where trickster Coyote? and Raven? are real, and where it is possible for a young woman to wish her twin sister out of existence.
No brief summary, however, will adequately describe this complicated novel. De Lint introduces his reader to a large, diverse cast of characters plus an entire mythological system he explains only incidentally, and moves those characters across a number of different stages through a number of different times. It's a story that begins with the birth of daughters to a country woman who has slept with one of the Corbae—sort of animal people who have been around since the creation of the world—and how she and her daughters are treated. It is also the story of how Raven? loses the cauldron he used to create the world, and how it must be recovered. And it is the story of how a ragtag group of people living in a violent and rundown world create a community amongst themselves.
Charles de Lint's greatest strength, and also sometimes his greatest weakness, is his obvious love for his characters, and empathy for people generally. The characters in Someplace to be Flying, especially the delightful CrowGirls, are never less than engaging. Sometimes, though, it's hard not to feel that Newford is a little too clean, and people there are much too good. But then, he is showing us people living up to their potential, rather than down to it. And that is what makes de Lint's books rewarding.