Medicine Road

Charles de Lint

Music, mischief, and magic pave the way for an unexpected journey into the spirit world. Upon meeting two mysterious strangers at their bluegrass gig, the red-headed Dillard twins are drawn into an age-old, mystical wager along the Medicine Road. Will love prevail over old habits?


Medicine Road

by Charles de Lint

ISBN: 9781892391889

Published: 2009

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback

Music, Mischief, and Magic…

Laurel and Bess Dillard are charismatic bluegrass musicians enjoying the success of their first Southwestern tour. But the Dillard girls know that magical adventures are always at hand. Upon meeting two mysterious strangers at a gig, the red-headed twins are drawn into an age-old, mystical wager along the Medicine Road.

One day, seeing a red dog chasing a jackalope, Coyote Woman gave them both human forms. They became Jim Changing Dog and Alice Corn Hair. In return, both Jim and Alice must find true love within a hundred years, or their “five-fingered” forms will be forfeit. Alice has found her soul mate, but trickster Jim is unwilling to settle down—until he sets eyes upon free-spirited Bess Dillard.

Yet time is running out for the red dog and the jackalope. In just two weeks, they will journey to their reckoning at the Medicine Wheel. Meanwhile, a motorcycle-riding seductress and a vengeful rattlesnake woman are eager to meddle, and Bess and Laurel, caught in a web of love and lies, must find their own paths into the spirit world.

Praise for Medicine Road

“Canadian author de Lint and illustrator Vess make good medicine in this whimsical collaboration of words and images starring those rambunctious red-haired Dillard twins, Laurel and Bess, mentioned in 2002’s Seven Wild Sisters and now stage center in their own short novel…. The mythic magic inevitable in all of de Lint’s best fantasies marks the spirited conclusion.”
Publishers Weekly

“De Lint adroitly and believably meshes the world we live in and the spirit world, and his lyrical descriptions of desert and canyon take us directly into the ambiance of the Southwest, adding much to the charm of this first-in-a-series short novel that is already well laced with humor, romance, and Native American mythology and nicely complemented by World Fantasy Award–winner Charles Vess’s black-and-white illustrations.”

“Charles de Lint’s new book, Medicine Road, is a first-rate folk tale, the story of a jackalope (that’s a mythical cross between a rabbit and an antelope, for the uninitiated) and a red dog whose run-in with a meddling Coyote Woman changes their lives forever.”

Medicine Road is like a dish made with a few strongly flavored ingredients. It has its impact and lingers in the memory just as long as a complex, subtly seasoned meal might. I heartily recommend it.”
Green Man Review

“De Lint has created a rich fairy tale where the characters, both human and animal spirit, practically jump off the pages with their own personalities, and it’s a fast-moving enjoyability that doesn’t suffer from not knowing the full measure of the Dillard sisters’ background.”
Fantastica Daily

“…a strong, thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly magical story that takes advantage of native myths and lore to create something entirely new, yet quietly familiar.”
SF Site

“The author cleverly weaves ancient myths with modern-day romance in a way that seems easy and natural.”
Rocky Mountain News

About the Author

Charles de Lint is the best-selling author of more than seventy adult, YA, and children’s books, including Moonheart, The Onion Girl, Widdershins, Medicine Road, and Under My Skin. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy, YALSA, Crawford, and Aurora awards. De Lint is a poet, songwriter, performer, and folklorist, and he writes a book review column for Fantasy & Science Fiction.

 Praise for Charles de Lint

“[de Lint] clearly has no equal as an urban fantasist.”

“De Lint’s elegant prose and effective storytelling continue to transform the mundane into the magical at every turn.”
Library Journal

“To read de Lint is to fall under the spell of a master storyteller, to be reminded of the greatness of life, of the beauty and majesty lurking in shadows and empty doorways.”
Quill and Quire

“In a genre of elaborately mapped Neverlands, de Lint sets his tale in our contemporary world and makes it not less magical.”
Los Angeles Times

“Easily Canada’s top fantasy scribe…a major international force in the genre.”
Edmonton Journal

“One of the most gifted storytellers writing fantasy today…de Lint makes each character real, each one capable of change and of many different responses.”

 Praise for Promises to Keep

“De Lint returns to Newford and Jilly Coppercorn’s youth…. [d]e Lint presents Jilly’s choices, the memories impelling them, and the solution to the riddle of Donna in his characteristic powerful yet intimate style. Jilly’s reader friends, including those first meeting her, will be more than delighted.”

“Lucid writing and well-realized characters.”
Publishers Weekly

“If you are already familiar with Newford’s residents, Promises to Keep provides a lovely glimpse into their past, and how they came to know one another. Readers new to de Lint’s work will find this book an easy introduction to the magical world of Newford. The beautiful cover art was done by Mike Dringenberg, well-known for his work on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.”
Journal of Mythic Arts

“In his novella Promises to Keep Charles de Lint returns to the early days of one of his most beloved Newford characters, Jilly Coppercorn. For fans this will be a delight well worth seeking out, but teen readers who have a chance to read it should not pass it up…. [A] classic peek into the wonder that is Newford.”

“It’s poignant, it’s moving, it makes you want to be a better person, and all in all, it’s pure de Lint.”
SF Site

“A clear and stunning view revealing the secrets of Newford.”
Fresh Fiction

Praise for The Very Best of Charles de Lint

“It’s hard not to feel encouraged to be a better person after reading a book by Ottawa’s Charles de Lint.”
Halifax Chronicle Herald

“Charles de Lint is the modern master of urban fantasy. Folktale, myth, fairy tale, dreams, urban legend—all of it adds up to pure magic in de Lint’s vivid, original world. No one does it better.”
—Alice Hoffman

“An outstanding and widely varied collection of 29 tales…. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will fall in love with de Lint’s graceful, poetic language and characters.”
Publishers Weekly

“[de Lint] is a master storyteller…. [I]n every story—and I do mean every—he manages to pack an emotional wallop, and a sense that the fantastical could be very, very possible if only we choose to believe it so.”

“More than 400 pages of the finest urban fantasy fiction of the past three decades.”
Ottawa Citizen

 Praise for Eyes Like Leaves

“This is classic high fantasy, written and revised by a master, unpublished when first completed some thirty years ago because de Lint decided to focus on contemporary fantasy stories and let it languish. It is a must for de Lint completists and, actually, for all high-fantasy and folkloristic fiction fans.”

“This traditional fantasy…bears de Lint’s characteristically lyrical prose and hypnotic storytelling. Filled with Celtic lore and wonderfully drawn characters, this stand-alone epic should please the author’s many fans and lovers of medieval fantasy.”
Library Journal

“World Fantasy Award–winner de Lint dusts off an enchanting epic fantasy written in 1980 but never published. The result is a delightful old-fashioned group quest…. [H]is nascent poetic style evokes beautiful imagery.”
Publishers Weekly

Visit the Charles de Lint website.

Changing Dog and Corn Hair

One night, not so long ago, Changing Dog and Corn Hair met up in Sedona, Arizona, to have a talk about an old bargain they’d made with Coyote Woman. It’s funny, thinking of the two of them together like that; I can imagine them doing pretty much anything except getting along. Most times they’ll argue the color of the moon, or the taste of water, if they can’t find something better to disagree on. There’s nothing much they ever seem to settle on, except that the other’s wrong.

But this night, Corn Hair wasn’t aiming for an argument. She had herself a camp there by Oak Creek, on the south bank where the water runs below Cathedral Rock. It wasn’t much, just her bedroll laid out in the sand under the sycamores, with her pack doubling as a pillow. Close by, she’d built a small fire on which she was boiling water in a tin coffeepot, the bottom blackened from all its years of use. She ground some coffee beans using a flat rock and another the size of her fist for a mortar and pestle, scooping them into the now-boiling water when they were ground to her satisfaction. By the time Changing Dog came ambling down from the red rock scars skirting the solitary butte that towered above the creek, the coffee was thick and black, ready to drink.

Changing Dog nodded hello and sat cross-legged near the fire. He was a rangy, copper-skinned man with a narrow face and long, chestnut hair that streaked to a dark tan at his temples and was kept tied back with a thin strip of leather. You hardly ever saw him dressing up. That night he was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, dusty tooled-leather cowboy boots and an old brown leather jacket going thin at the elbows. He wasn’t a homely man and he wasn’t particularly handsome, but he had these eyes that would grab anybody’s attention, especially a woman’s.

They were a vivid cornflower blue that looked violet in the right light, and there was always a promise in them — not that he’d necessarily deliver, but that whatever might come, it would at least be interesting.

He accepted the tin coffee mug that Corn Hair handed him and took an appreciative sip. Setting the mug in the sand, he pulled a tobacco pouch from his pocket and rolled them each a cigarette, lighting them with a twig from the fire. He left one hanging from his lips, offering the other to Corn Hair.

“So one of the crows found you,” she said as she took the cigarette.

Changing Dog nodded. “I was surprised to get the message.”

“Are you telling me you’ve lost track of the days?”

“Oh, I know what day it is coming up. I’ve been counting them off for a hundred years, same as you.”

Corn Hair had a couple of puffs from the cigarette he’d given her, just to be polite, then dropped the butt into the fire. She wasn’t a smoker herself and that was about the only easy definition you could apply to her. Never wholly a part of this world before the night the two of them met Coyote Woman, she still wasn’t much a part of it now either, though at least she looked closer to belonging.

She was maybe a head shorter than Changing Dog, which made her closer to five-two than five-three, and she dressed for comfort in the high desert country: thick cotton khaki cargo pants, tan jersey, fringed-leather vest with beadwork below either shoulder, and a pair of good leather walking shoes. Her jacket hung from a nearby tree at the moment, a three-quarter length wool coat that, with all its colored patterns, might have been made from a Navajo blanket.

In the firelight her shoulder-length hair looked blonde, but in the sun you noticed all the different streaks from dark corn yellow to almost white. She wasn’t skinny, but she wasn’t close to overweight. Her features always reminded me of a hare or a deer: long, but still slightly rounded, with a pair of sleepy brown eyes that mesmerize you. Her skin held a pattern like the bark of the sycamores, ranging from dark brown patches to those almost white — it was her only real holdover after the change, carrying the pattern of her fur on her skin when she became a woman.

“So what are you saying?” she asked. “Have you gone and got yourself tired of these five-fingered shapes we’re using?”

Changing Dog took a long drag and blew it out. “And lose having the best of two worlds? Not likely.”

“I don’t see you doing much to help.”

“True love’s not like you looking for a certain rock in the desert, or chasing down just the right word you need for one of those songs of yours.”

Corn Hair nodded. “Don’t you think I know that? But at least I’ve got someone.”

“And you made that happen?”

“No, but at least I was available. At least I was meeting people. If you screw this up —”

“I know. I screw it up for both of us.” Changing Dog regarded her from across the fire, that promise in his eyes working their magic. “I still say we should be together.”

Corn Hair didn’t bother to protest. She just smiled and said, “Like that’s ever going to happen.”

Other books by this author…