Dingo is a YA novel that tells the story of a young woman who has the ability to turn into a dingo because she is a descendant of the original animal people from the beginning of the world. Her breeding causes problems for her and her family when other animal people need her for a mysterious ritual. Fleeing Australia to Canada to find safety, Lainey meets Miguel and together they hatch a plan to win her freedom.
Charles de Lint is recycling previous material for this book. He has written multiple tales of a normal human who meets a mythic being, gets sucked into a dreamworld, and then has to work his or her way back home, and the repeat of this plotline left Dingo feeling stale and uninspired. There was nothing new or innovative in the way he handled this story, and even more disturbing was the way that the Australian mythology felt grafted on to the Native American mythology which he explored in previous novels. Likewise, the characters felt like old retreads.
In addition, the dialogue seemed flat and unrealistic. This is not how I talked as a teenager, or how the teenagers I teach talk. De Lint seemed to be using the teens in the story to make a personal argument about multiple topics, including evolution, the need to be true to one’s self, and even the best bands in Australia, with a preachiness that bordered on an After School Special.
Finally, the ending was formulaic, and lacked any sense of magic or fantasy. To me, Dingo just felt like de Lint was phoning it in. First time readers of de Lint will be turned off by the uninspired writing, and long time fans will be disappointed by the lack of originality.
Charles de Lint is credited on the dust cover of this book as pioneering the modern field of urban fantasy, but Dingo leaves me sadly wondering if he has run out of ideas for new stories. All of the touchstones of a de Lint novel are there, but the magic is gone, and I was highly disappointed. Dingo was written as one long chapter, with simple double paragraph breaks between sections, and the lack of a chapter break as a mental stopping place is probably the only thing that kept me reading to the end. It wasn’t that the novel was overtly bad. There is just nothing here to make me recommend it to another reader.