From: the public library
In a nutshell:
Christine Starlight’s rock-star parents died in a car crash when she was a teenager. Now in her early thirties, she has followed her long-time boyfriend Jude to Berlin where he has a summer-long art fellowship.
Christine had lived in Berlin when she was a child. Her childhood friend May had disappeared one night and was presumed dead. When Christine briefly blacks-out in her apartment due to a household accident, she finds herself in another world, inhabited by faeries, and ruled by none other than her now-adult friend May.
As May finds herself attracted to the ‘real-world’ and Christine is drawn to the faery domain, a faery-hunter plots to make a lethal raid in May’s kingdom.
After enjoying Kim Wilkins’ novel Veil of Gold last year, I decided to seek out her backlist. The Autumn Castle appeared to be a well-liked predecessor. Similar to how Veil of Gold pulled from Russian folktales, The Autumn Castle delves into German folklore, with overtones of Grimm fairy tales. It is not a retelling of any particular Grimm fairy tale, but characters’ backstories contain familiar elements: a bargain too eagerly made and soon regretted, quests to undo curses, talking magical animals.
Kim Wilkins apparently has a knack for creating characters that burrow into my affection. In Veil of Gold, it was Em Hayward. In The Autumn Castle, it was Christine as well as May’s faithful wolf advisor, Eisengrimm. I loved how Christine and Eisengrimm quickly developed a companionable rapport.
I did look at some reviews on goodreads.com before writing this review. Of course, when I do that, it makes me want to respond to some of the criticisms other readers had. I remember a few reviews complaining about predictability, which surprised me. I guess it depends on one’s past reading experience. Having read Veil of Gold, I knew that there were no guarantees about characters’ safety from Wilkins. I knew what I hoped would happen in The Autumn Castle, but I didn’t know if it would, and if so, how that would be accomplished. Wilkins foreshadowed some events, but there was enough left ‘up in the air’ to keep me wondering what was going to happen next.
Also, a certain level of predictability doesn’t seem out of place for a book which consciously evokes Grimm fairy tales. That’s my take anyway.
One thing I liked in both Veil of Gold and The Autumn Castle is how Kim Wilkins dealt with unprepared humans encountering fantasy worlds for the first time. I’ve read a fair amount of urban fantasy and fantasy novels, and though it makes sense that humans would react with disbelief to magical worlds, I get impatient if this adjustment period extends too long, or remains throughout most of the book. I appreciate that Wilkins dispatches of this stage quickly and in a way that works with the characters and setting.
The Autumn Castle is less bleak and desperate than Veil of Gold, but there are still high stakes in play, and not just of lives, but of love and memory. The villain is utterly creepy, psychotic and dangerous, but the rest of the characters are quite capable of causing hurt to each other in regular human ways (even if they are faery.)
So chalk this one up to another good fantasy read. And I just found out while writing this review that The Autumn Castle and Veil of Gold are books 1 and 3 respectively of The Europa Suite. Apparently book 2, Giants of the Frost, is based around the tales of Scandinavia. So I guess I know which Wilkins book I’m going to read by next.
Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf – “However, although I liked [the characters], and romped through the book at a rapid pace, I felt its grisly themes weren’t fully realised.”
Karissa’s Reading Review – “This is an urban fantasy that is more like some of Charles DeLint’s works than the more modern urban fantasies that are being published by the boat loads. To be honest, although I enjoyed the fairy-tale like quality to the story, it was a bit slow for me at points and I missed the action.”