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Giants of the Frost
Kim Wilkins
Gollancz, 435 pages

Giants of the Frost
Kim Wilkins
Born in London, England, Kim Wilkins moved to Australia when she was four, where she finished her first (unpublished and now lost) novel by age eleven. Having worked in a number of "bad jobs," she has attended university where she is now completing her Ph.D. in British Romanticism after an MA in creative writing. Her first novel The Infernal, published in 1997 won that year's Aurealis Award for best horror and best fantasy novel. Grimoire, The Ressurrectionists (Aurealis Award winner), Angel of Ruin, The Autumn Castle followed between 1999 and 2003. Her latest (Sept. 2005) is Rosa and the Veil of Gold. She has also written a young adult series about a psychic detective. Married, mother of one son (and two cats), she lives in Brisbane, near the campus of the University of Queensland, where she is an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing.

Author's Website
Kim Wilkins
Author's academic article on genre literature and the genesis of Giants of the Frost: Wilkins, K. 2005 The Process of Genre: Authors, Readers, Institutions. TEXT. The Journal of the Australian Association of Writing Programmes. 9(2)

EXCERPT: Chap. I of Giants of the Frost
ISFDB Bibliography
INTERVIEW: 1, 2, 3, 4
BOOK REVIEWS:
Giants of the Frost: 1, 2, 3, 4. 5, 6, 7
The Autumn Castle: 1, 2, 3

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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WARNING: The American edition of this book has an altered 'happier ending' not present in the Orion Books edition which I review here.

Victoria is a well-grounded atheistic meteorologist, who after a messy breakup lands a job on a remote wind-blown Norwegian Island, which just happens to be the Earth side of Bifrost, the mythical bridge between the 'real world' and Asgard, the home of Odin, Freja, Loki, Thor and the rest of the Norse pantheon, including Odin's son Vidar. As recounted in Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda, Vidar's essential role at Ragnarok (Norse Armageddon), when Odin is swallowed by the wolf Fenrir, is to revenge his father by stepping up and killing Fenrir. Problem is Vidar is estranged from dad and his violent hedonistic cronies, and worse yet, has taken it into his head to want to run off to Earth and live in connubial bliss with a mortal woman—and dad is terrified his son won't show to take down Fenris. In one such 11th century instance, Odin simply wiped out all those living on the island, including the offending woman, but this time Vidar is older and wiser, and knows he must now approach his reincarnated love much more carefully. Victoria and Vidar meet, sparks fly, but between Victoria's entanglements with coworkers, Vidar's jealous bond-maiden, and Loki the trickster, things aren't going to go smoothly, especially when Odin hears of things. Only a great sacrifice can quell the waters, but what will it mean in terms of Victoria's survival and Vidar's status within Asgard?

Both a quality and a problem with Giants of the Frost is that it is in three genres at once: horror (the material of much of Wilkins' early works), romance, and mythology-based fantasy. I enjoyed Giants of the Frost, but could easily see how anyone coming to the book with the preconception of horror or romance or fantasy, and never the twain shall meet, could be disappointed. Of the three elements, that of horror is perhaps the least realized, not that there isn't fine creepy and atmospheric episodes, but little of the more graphic slice-and-dice horror genre. As soon as you pull in Norse mythology, the source of much of modern fantasy, you can't help but have a strong fantasy element, and the use of what is a character with very little stage time in the original myths, in an interesting and thought-provoking manner, can't hurt either.

Reincarnative romances which span history themselves have a long history, from Marie Corelli's The Life Everlasting and Ziska: The Problem of a Wicked Soul, to H. Rider Haggard's classic She quartet, to the more recent Ferney by James Long. While perhaps less rich that the latter in terms of long-term remembrances of episodes where the lovers are, if briefly, together, Giants of the Frost presents a fully realized romance, if one accepts that one can have a tragic romance, something perfectly in keeping with typical doom-laden Norse literature. However, apparently based on fears the ending might turn off the North American audience, it was altered to present a happier, more open-ended outcome—now readers, let's all put on Ren's 'Happy, happy, joy, joy" helmet and ignore that any bad things happen.

Much of what drives the story is the jealousy of some of the minor characters, particularly Odin and Vidar's bond-maiden Aud on the one side, and Victoria's gruff boss and his mistress on the other. Throw the meddlesome Loki into the mix and things are bound to go wrong. The awkward interplay between Aud and Vidar, while well portrayed, is at times frustrating, since he totally ignores a woman who obviously wants nothing else but to be dragged off and ravished by him—thankfully for her Loki is not so picky. While at times, the story's momentum is shifted somewhat abruptly by shifts in locale and amongst the narrative's three genres, the story is coherent and involving; however, given the romance element, this entertaining twist on Norse mythology is perhaps a novel more suited to a female readership.

Copyright © 2006 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.


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