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The Autumn Castle
Kim Wilkins
Gollancz, 463 pages

The Autumn Castle
Kim Wilkins
Kim Wilkins was born in London, and moved to Australia when she was four. She attended university receiving an English degree with first class honours, a university medal, and an M.A. in creative writing. A Ph.D. is in progress. In 1997, her first novel, The Infernal, was published. It won the 1997 Aurealis Awards for best horror novel, and best fantasy novel. She lives in Brisbane with her family.

Kim Wilkins Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Susan Dunman

Christine Starlight doesn't believe in faeries but she's more than willing to believe in miracles. How else can she explain the untiring devotion of Jude, her strikingly handsome lover, during the past four years? Currently working as an artist in Berlin, Jude's latest painting is a tribute to the first day of autumn. Drab shades of black, brown and grey perfectly match Christine's melancholy mood. Disturbing recollections of the abduction of a childhood friend years earlier mingle with vague images of a frightening black crow, haunting Christine's memories.

Unknown to Christine, the crow is not a figment of her imagination. He is the counselor to Queen Mayfridh, ruler of the faery kingdom of Ewigkreis. He was also present many seasons ago when a little red-haired girl named Miranda was snatched from her bedroom by a childless faery queen. And he is now the emissary who will meet Christine when she is inexplicably drawn into the faery world, inadvertently causing changes that will affect both realms in unforeseen ways.

Author Kim Wilkins draws both modern and faery landscapes with enthusiasm, filling both settings with suspense and intrigue. On the one hand, there's the modern Berlin scene, focusing on four promising young artists who have accepted an artist in residence program from the world renown sculptor, Immanuel Zweigler. Referring to their living quarters as the Hotel Mandy-Z, the group appreciates their benefactor's monetary assistance but finds the man himself to be repulsive.

At the other end of the spectrum, the faery kingdom represents a pastoral, medieval world ruled by a self-absorbed queen who's having trouble controlling her magic. It seems that the court witch doubts Mayfridh's claim to the throne and will not release all of the spells that rightfully belong to faery royalty. In spite of this major inconvenience, Mayfridh rules as best she can, but she finds her royal duties to be tedious and her kingdom rather monotonous.

Christine's mysterious appearance in Mayfridh's realm signals an unusual alignment of the two worlds that allows easy travel back and forth -- at least until the end of autumn, when the change of seasons will hinder their passage once again. Now, Mayfridh has the opportunity to explore the wonders of Earth, including Christine's boyfriend, Jude. Meanwhile, Christine discovers she is free of her chronic back pain while visiting Ewigkreis and the crow counselor has secrets he's willing to share.

In the midst of new-found discoveries and identities, the open portal also offers dark opportunities for those who are not so enamored of faery linage. It seems that the repulsive nature of Mandy Z is well-founded, for he not only sculpts in metal and stone, but also faery bones. The addition of a twisted criminal like Mandy introduces a horror element that's very effective in ratcheting up the suspense factor within the novel. Careful character development helps readers really care about the people (and the faeries) in this story, and the plot contributes to the growth of characters, rather than overshadowing them.

If you want to add a "creepy" factor to your more traditional faeryland tale, then this book certainly fits the bill. An entertaining story and clever climax will have you looking forward to the next installment of the Europa Suite series, Giants of the Frost.

Copyright © 2004 Susan Dunman

Susan became a librarian many light years ago and has been reviewing books ever since. Audiobooks and graphic novels have expanded her quest to find the best science fiction in Libraryland.

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