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Elfland    by Freda Warrington order for
by Freda Warrington
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Elfland, Freda Warrington gives readers a slow developing urban fantasy about Aetherials who can live either amongst humans or in the magical Otherworld. Gates are maintained between the two realms - it's Gatekeeper Lawrence Wilder's responsibility to open them the Night of the Summer Stars, every seven years - but Aetherials can move in and out of the fluid Dusklands (an extra dimension 'full of mystery') almost at will.

Aetherial Rosie Fox lives at Oakholme with her loving parents Auberon and Jessica, her elder brother Matthew and her close younger brother Lucas. Matthew rejects their heritage, and tries to force his siblings to do so also. The neighboring Wilders live, much less happily, at Stonegate Manor. After Ginny Wilder leaves, her absence makes her husband Lawrence even colder, and hurts their sons, Sam (who is always in trouble) and Jonathan. After his wife's departure, Lawrence seals the gates, warning his furious peers of vague dangers. With the Otherworld closed, young Aetherials are unable to go through the usual initiation at age sixteen, and both Earth and the Aetherials who reside there are blocked from the Elysian energy they need for renewal.

As the children in the two households grow up, there are conflicts. Then Rosie falls hard for Jon, though he shows no interest in her. Lucas learns who his real father is. Lawrence brings home a mysterious human wife, Sapphire, who is not what she seems. Jon tries to open the gates, using drugs and enlisting Lucas. Sam is jailed for manslaughter. Matthew weds Rosie's friend Faith and they have a daughter. Rosie marries a human at Matthew's urging, only to discover that she has made a serious mistake, and that her true love is someone unexpected. When tragedy leaves Lucas comatose after his efforts have opened a crack to the Otherworld, Rosie and her lover risk everything to bring back his essence from Elysion.

Unfortunately Lawrence was right about the danger behind the Gates. When it's unleashed, a sacrifice is required to banish the great Shadow once more. Though it took its time getting there, I enjoyed the exciting conclusion to this romantic urban fantasy, first in Freda Warrington's new series of Aetherial Tales.

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