More urban fantasy set in and around de Lint's all-purpose North American city, Newford (The Onion Girl, 2001, etc.), but not, as the blurb seems to promise, a novel: 17 stories, one of considerable length, drawn from anthologies, ’zines, and chapbooks, 1998–2002, plus one, “The Witching Hour,” original to this collection. As usual, a variety of dysfunctional characters fumble their way to new beginnings, helped or hindered by a familiar coterie of magical beings, musicians, writers, and artists—the Crow girls Zia and Maida; Jilly Coppercorn; Christy Riddell; Meran and Cerin Kellady, among others—not to mention trees (the Tree of the title; the witchy Bottle Tree; the Tree of Tales), creatures good or evil, the quick and the dead. Predatory werewolves and fallen angels scour the dark streets; ghosts and spirits lurk in abandoned tenements; tiny folk, once birds, yearn to regain their ancient forms; murderers get their comeuppance, though never in any expected fashion. Vicious pixies from the Internet emerge through a computer screen to wreak havoc in Holly Rue's secondhand bookstore and annoy its unsuspected tenant, a shy but valiant hobgoblin. In the dreamworld, the witch Granny Weather, captured by malevolent bogles, summons the aid of Sophie Etoile, in whose veins runs faerie blood. Need to learn how to make your dog capable of speech? Consult TheWordwood.com, a Web site in an imaginary city in a world reached only through dreams.
Newford may be an acquired taste, but if the lack of a new novel causes any disappointment, it will surely be assuaged by the quality and variety of the material here.