Trader by Charles de Lint: Book REview

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4 Stars

Max Trader is a luthier who wakes up one morning in a body not his own. After the initial panic and a little further investigation, Trader finds out that charming, womanizing rake, Johnny Devlin, has wished for a different life and somehow they have traded bodies. Devlin has no intention of trying to switch back. He gets a fresh start while Trader tries to navigate his way through the wreckage of Johnny’s life. While learning about Johnny, though, Devlin learns a few things about his own life and how he needs to start living as large as trees, to paraphrase.

Characters, characters, characters. What draws me to Charles de Lint are his characters, and he did not disappoint with this one. Trader is a mild-mannered kind of guy, mostly forgettable except for his talent, but he’s willing to learn from this unbelievable experience he has. He learns to live his life to the fullest and not take a single day for granted.

So that one’s obvious. What makes this a de Lint book is that even the secondary characters grow and learn and change. Trader and Devlin’s switch is like a stone thrown into a still pond: the effects ripple out in ways that you don’t see coming. Even minor characters learn self-acceptance, the value of having your own life outside of a relationship, acceptance of others, forgiveness, open-mindedness and all kinds of Important Life Lessons. I’ve loaned out my copy already or I would throw out a couple of quotes that sum all of this up much better than I can. Expect to see a revised version of this review when I get my copy back.

Finally got it back!

“The thing to do is to be happy with yourself, with what’s in your own life; then if a relationship comes along it’s a bonus, something to enjoy instead of the thing your life revolves around.”

“Look inside yourself for the answers–you’re the only one who knows what’s best for you. Everybody else is only guessing.”

What kept this from being five stars are two of the characters who actually grow the most. They were the whiniest women I have read about in a long time. Oh, they felt real alright. I know plenty of women who moan on and on and on about their boyfriends, the lack of, or the fact that they need a life apart from. They are not women I want to spend time with, either in books or in real life. I have very little tolerance for that kind of thing. It’s an important lesson to get out there, but spare me. Please.

What’s a little unusual about this novel is that there isn’t really a bad guy. Devlin’s not anyone’s idea of a nice guy, but the real antagonists are apathy, inertia, missed opportunities, wasted talent, and a lack of self-awareness. Devlin’s actually sort of the poster child for the “wherever you go, there you are” theme running through the book. He gets a new life, but he’s unwilling to change and makes the same old mistakes all over again.

This falls pretty early in the Newford books, which I will still maintain that you don’t have to read in order, but it was pretty cool to go back and read an early book and see how the regulars were doing back then. I finally know who Tanya is and how she and Geordie meet, and I finally realize that there are hints of Jilly’s The Onion Girl trials this early.

On a side note, I adore the cover art that John Jude Palancar creates for de Lint’s books.

Anyway, this is a great example of why Charles de Lint is my favorite author. He tells a great story with an important message without being preachy, all while creating characters who honestly feel like old friends to me at this point. Reading this one has given me the urge to go on a Newford re-reading binge. Highly recommended.

Reviewed July 27, 2009

Read an excerpt.

Find author Charles de Lint on his website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Buy Trader at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader

Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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