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Giants of the Frost

by Kim Wilkins

(Gollancz, £6.99, 435 pages, paperback, first published 2005, this edition published 13 October 2005.)

Review by Gary Couzens

cover scanLondoner Victoria Scott, a scientist on the rebound from a broken relationship, takes a job at a remote weather station in the Norwegian Sea. The hours are long, the landscape outside bleak and the weather foul, and soon Victoria is accepted as one of the crew, part of the complex networks of friendships and relationships at the station. But something stirs outside and Victoria soon begins to see visions...

Giants of the Forest is the second of the three-book Europa Suite, three fantasies that draw on European legends and mythology. The first book was The Autumn Castle, reviewed by me here, and the third will be the Russian-set Rosa and the Veil of Gold, published in 2005 in Australia and due out from Gollancz in the UK in March 2007.

As with her earlier novels, Giants of the Frost has two plotlines with different narrative methods. In between Victoria's first-person account we have a third-person narrative set mostly in Asgard, the home of the Norse Gods. Vidar, son of Odin, loved a woman who was murdered by his father, and has waited a thousand years for her to be reincarnated. Could Victoria be that woman?

A novel where about half of the characters are preternatural beings (gods, in fact) is a tricky one to write for anyone, particularly in characterisation: too much humanisation of them is an open invitation to bathos. It's a delicate balance and one that Wilkins doesn't quite manage: the lengthy Asgard sections tend to mark time between Victoria's account here on Midgard, which I found more compelling. If the novel is a little disappointing compared to The Autumn Castle and its predecessor Angel of Ruin (retitled Fallen Angel for the UK), there are compensations. Wilkins is good with a sense of place and the station crew are deftly characterised. The novel is generally well paced, with some tense moments that reflect Wilkins's beginnings in the horror genre. Also, she doesn't back away from a surprisingly downbeat ending. At least in this version, which is identical to the Australian edition, she doesn't: the US edition has a rewritten ending.

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