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The Autumn Castle: Europa Suite 1

by Kim Wilkins

(Gollancz, £17.99, 465 pages, hardback, published 17 June 2004. Gollancz, £6.99, 463 pages, paperback, 10 March 2005.)

Review by Gary Couzens

When she was young, Christine Starlight lost her parents in a car crash. Now she lives in an autumnal Berlin with her lover Jude as part cover scanof an artist's commune presided over by the mysterious Immanuel Ziegler, known as Mandy Z for short. Then a childhood friend returns into Christine's life: May Frith, a young girl who was abducted by the faerie folk and has since become Mayfridh, Queen of Faery. The lands of Faery and of human kind are coinciding for a limited time so that transport between the two is possible. Mayfridh has taken the chance to seek out her old friend, but soon finds some aspects of human life too much to her liking. And meanwhile Mandy Z has some quite sinister plans of his own.

Australian writer Kim Wilkins came to many people's attention with her fourth novel, Angel of Ruin (published in the UK as Fallen Angel), a compelling dark fantasy mostly set in 17th Century London and featuring John Milton and his daughters as principal characters. It was a novel with well-drawn characters, a convincing background and above all a compelling narrative drive ... a combination that the author has continued with this new novel. The Autumn Castle is the first of a trilogy. However, the series would appear to be a thematically rather than narratively linked, as this novel certainly is complete in itself. Any story involving fairies/faeries risks tweeness, but Wilkins ably avoids that trap. She began her career as a horror writer and this is certainly a dark fantasy with an astringent horror aftertaste. She also manages to make convincing a plot twist midway that on the face of it is an outrageous coincidence. Add to that convincing characters, a well-worked out faerie world, and you have a novel that slips down with considerable ease.

Europa Suite 2, Giants of the Frost, is out now in Australia and due in 2005 from Gollancz. I for one am certainly looking forward to it.

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