What a strange little book. That was the first thought that crossed my head after I closed Into the Green. It concerns the adventures of Angharad, a tinker-woman who is also ‘Summerborn’, which means that she has a mystical gift that connects her with the realm of Faerie, better known in this world as ‘the Green’. Traveling the three islands that make up her Celtic-flavoured world, Angharad’s mission in life is to awaken other potential Summerborns to their dormant gift and prevent the magic of the Green from leaking out of the world through her singing, storytelling and harping.
In the first surprise of the book, the heroine does not marry at the finale of the story but at its beginning — and just as abruptly her husband Garrow is taken from her by the plague. With her husband, family and community dead she is forced into a new calling as a solitary wanderer. For the first few chapters of the book, it seemed that De Lint was mapping a rather unusual plot: each chapter is a self-enclosed adventure of Angharad as she searches for fellow Summerborns, a format you would expect from a episodic television series. For example, in one chapter Angharad meets a tree wizard and helps out his misguided apprentice, in another she finds herself in a dangerous situation with some witch-hunters, one of whom is a Summerborn himself. Each crisis is wrapped up by the end of the chapter, and has no further bearing on the rest of the story.
But just as I began to settle in and enjoy this unique volume of mini-adventures (told in beautiful prose with a wonderful melding of Celtic myth and original ideas), De Lint throws in an actual story, with cross-chapter references and character building. Unfortunately this story wasn’t quite as interesting as it should have been, and I had already found De Lint’s previous path (of telling one story of Angharad’s life per chapter) quite appealing. Now we’re dealing with a mysterious puzzle-box is uncovered after thousands of years, one that poses a threat to the Summerborn and the Green. Angharad is charged with the task of finding and destroying it.
From here, about a dozen new characters are introduced (none of whom are as interesting as those found in the first half of the book) who are rather difficult to keep track of. The quality of the puzzle-box story can be summed up in the fact that I remember Angharad’s solo adventures at the beginning of the book very well, but have no idea as to how she managed to eventually destroy the power of the puzzle box.
As I said, it’s an odd little book. Many will share my sentiment that the idea of a series of short-stories concerning Angharad’s life was a unique and interesting conceit; others will be impatient for the longer story-arc of the book that involves the sinister puzzle box. I certainly don’t regret reading Into the Green as it has some neat little ideas concerning the life and qualities of the tinker-folk, and Charles De Lint’s language is beautiful, but still… it’s odd!