Jack, the Giant-Killer

by Charles de Lint

Cover image

Series: Jack of Kinrowan #1
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: November 1987
Printing: January 1990
ISBN: 0-441-37970-2
Format: Mass market
Pages: 186

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Charles de Lint is one of my favorite authors when he writes subtle, ambiguous stories about the difficulties of life, the interactions between belief and magic and people, and understandings and misunderstandings between people who see the world in very different ways. When he writes straightforward fairy tales with obvious morals and little complexity to the plot, his writing is still enjoyable, but it doesn't have the same sort of magic. I fear this is one of the latter.

It's still an enjoyable story. Jacky is an appealing viewpoint character, flawed and lucky, a good analogue for the Jack of various fairy tales. She stumbles into a war between fae courts (the dark fae are the bad guys here) and ends up playing a major role through a combination of luck and unwillingness to walk away. I like the way she gets goaded and dared into doing the right thing. The characters in general were memorable, if a bit one-sided, and de Lint's amalgam of various stories and fairy elements is a fun diversion. He has a skill for writing plucky female characters who fight to do the right thing.

Alas, there's just not a lot of depth or complexity here. The good guys and bad guys are obvious, one knows that Jacky will end up doing the right thing and win out in the end, and even the final confrontation and last twist were predictable far in advance. I'm not sure how the book was originally marketed, but I'd class it as young adult rather than adult fiction. It has that feel of simplicity and transparency (as well as being quite short).

If you're looking for light urban fantasy, though, I'll still recommend it. De Lint is one of the best at writing the borderland intersections between the contemporary regular world and the fantasy world, making the world that most people never see feel like it fits with urban life. Jack, the Giant-Killer won't challenge, but it's short, well-paced, and good-hearted, and kept me entertained on the train.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-05-22

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21