I’ve been wanting to holiday in Newford for more than ten years; finally, this spring, I spent time in Dreams Underfoot.

“In Newford, creation is the supreme act of magic, whether that creation be a painting, a fiddle tune or a poem, an AIDS clinic or battered children’s shelter, or one’s own family and a harmonious way of life.”

That’s an idea of magic that the majority of readers can get behind.

“By these acts we create magic in our own lives; by these acts, large and small, we reinvent the world.”

The interconnected stories in this volume introduce many characters that will feature in later Newford volumes.

(If you know the series, but haven’t read the stories, you might appreciate browsing the characters’ names in the brief summaries below, but otherwise, feel free to skip to the final paragraphs.)

Uncle Dobbin’s Parrot Fair; In which Ellen Brady and Peregrine Laurie see things that delight and disturb

The Stone Drum; In which Jilly Coppercorn and Meran Kellady travel down below to return something that does not belong to them

Timeskip; In which there is a ghost, and Jilly urges Geordie Riddell to ask Sam out on a date

Freewheeling; In which bicycles ride free, and Jilly takes Sue Ashworth with her to bail out Zinc

That Explains Poland; In which three young women — LaDonna, Lori and Ruth — take the challenge offered by the newspaper headlines and go hunting for Bigfoot in Upper Foxville

Romano Drom; In which Lorio Munn discovers that there’s more than one way out of an alley

The Sacred Fire; In which Luann Somerson spots Nicky Straw, her old classmate, in a gutter and doesn’t just walk by

Winter Was Hard; In which Jilly walks the Tombs on the eve of the Winter Solstice as a geas, “something you just have to do”

Pity the Monsters; In which Harrier Pierson does and, then, does not, pity them

Ghosts of Wind and Shadow; In which Lesli Batterberry has a flute lesson with Meran Kelledy that changes her life, but changes life of her mother, Anna, even more dramatically

The Conjure Man; In which Wendy St. James talks to the conjure man on an autumn day and shows Jilly what she saw with him

Small Deaths; In which Zoe Brill meets Gordon Wolfe, complains to Hilary Carlisle about the creepy-ness of the whole scene, and wishes that her dog (Rupert) was more of a tough guy

The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep; In which the moon might actually be drowning while Sophie Etoile sleeps

In the House of My Enemy; In which Jilly takes in Annie, 15-years-old and 8 months pregnant

But for the Grace Go I; In which Maisie picks up Tommy’s magazine subscriptions and gets more in her mailbox than was expected

Bridges; In which Moira is rather rudely dropped off but finds her way to a not-entirely-unhappy ending

Our Lady of the Harbour; In which “The Little Mermaid” is retold, with Matt Casey (genius, musician, outsider) and Amy Scallan (who confides in her friend, Lucia Han) and Katrina Ludvigsen

Paperjack; In which Jilly and Geordie go looking for Paperjack

Tallulah; In which we finally meet Christy Riddell, talk of his stories having dotted the collection, and hear the tale of Tallulah, whom he (kind of, but not really) wishes he’d never met

If you’re wondering where the collection’s title comes from, the genesis is offered in the epigraph from Yeats: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

And the dream-world does play a vitally important role in this collection of stories (and, presumably, in the collection of Newford works, of which there are now more than twenty).

But, simultaneously, even the characters who are not ordinary humans, but who have a fantastical nature, feel familiar and recognizable.

Even you don’t read a lot of fantasy fiction, but you’re curious, perhaps urban fantasy like Charles deLint’s stories would be a good place to start.

With a contemporary urban setting and as much of an emphasis on characterization as on plot, Dreams Underfoot is a wholly enjoyable collection.

And it’s a perfect choice for Once Upon a Time reading.

Have you spent time in Newford?

Do you have a favourite character that appears in this collection?