Now this is a really cool offering from one of my favorite authors! The Crow Girls, Maida and Zia, are apparently immortal beings who can shapeshift from being slightly built black haired girls dressed all in black to being crows. And woe unto those who think they are just what they look like in human form as they can kill as effortlessly as they eat sugar as they do the latter in one of the stories here.
I think the first time that they appear in Someplace To Be Flying where they, and the rest of the immortal shapeshifters such as Raven who believes he created the universe and Cody who shifts between being a coyote and a blue jeans clad First Nations male who shoots pool, likes coffee and loves a bluejay shapeshifter named Margaret.
They are memorable characters, two of the best de Lint has created and that’s saying a lot given the other characters he’s created. As de Lint describes them in Someplace To Be Flying:
This is how it was in the long ago: Everyone respected the crow girls. Didn’t matter where you were, walking the medicine lands or right here in this world with the roots and dirt underfoot. You could look up and call their names, and there they’d be looking back down at you, two pieces of magic perched high up in a forever tree, black feathers shining, dark eyes watching, heads cocked, listening.
Some people say Raven was older, and wiser, too, but the crow girls were kinder. Any mischief they got into never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.
Knew all the questions and most of the answers, always did. Never had rules, never told you what to do, but they would teach you how to find your own answers, if you asked nicely enough.
Now no one remembers them.
So de Lint has assembled here a collection of previously published stories about Maida and Zia in one convenient place for your reading pleasure. Want a Christmas story that deserves reading every year at that time of year? Read ‘A Crow Girls’ Christmas’ in which Maida and Zia discover the joys of that holiday, particularly the sweeter side of it. It’s an illustrated story with the artwork by MaryAnn Harris, his wonderfully artistic wife.
For a modern take on the Child Ballad called ‘Twa Corbies’, savor the Charles Vess illustrated story of the same name in which an older woman has an encounter with them that leads to them telling the tale of their involvement in that story. This story originally appeared in The Book of Ballads which has many other awesome stories, aLso illustrated by Vess.
In ‘Crow Girls’, we get a excellent look at the effect that they have on individuals who have not encountered magic before. And there’s a wonderful description of them here:
Maida and Zia are forever friends. Crow girls with spiky blue-black hair and eyes so dark it’s easy to lose your way in them. A little raggedy and never quiet, you can’t miss this pair: small and wild and easy in their skins, living on Zen time. Sometimes they forget they’re crows, left their feathers behind in the long ago, and sometimes they forget they’re girls. But they never forget that they’re friends.
In ‘Buffalo Man’, they must help unravel the mystery of a unconscious man who holds the key to stopping a lot of rather angry spirits from doing something very, very bad to Newford. This city is the amazingly envisioned city where much of his fiction is set.
The ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ story is one in which they get involved with many strange things including a ghost. Along the way the narrator, one of the Crow Girls, explains quite a bit about their history, who the two differ from each other, and many other things. The story adds a lot of depth to them which is welcome.
Everything here is quite excellent and serves as a good introduction to the many reading pleasures of the stories that are set largely in Newford and the areas around it. Highly recommended! If you like what you read here, you’ll no doubt like The Onion Girl and Widdershins in which they play prominent roles.
You can get this book in your favored digital format here.
(Triskell Press, 2015)