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The Autumn Castle    by Kim Wilkins order for
Autumn Castle
by Kim Wilkins
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Autumn Castle is an unusual mixture of serial chiller, dark fantasy and romance. Its needy heroine, plain Christine Starlight, has suffered chronic back pain since the childhood car accident which orphaned her. Though insecure about his feelings for her, Christine lives with her handsome boyfriend Jude (a painter) in an artists' colony in Berlin (Jude has his own secrets). Unbeknownst to them, but revealed early to the reader, their landlord, Immanuel Zweigler (aka Mandy Z) is a serial killer.

He doesn't kill humans. Mandy Z's ancestors bred with faeries, he has a 'measureless loathing' for them, and has turned himself into 'the Faery Hunter'. Mandy Z collects their bones and has been slowly sculpting them into a 'Bone Wife', which he occasionally animates, incomplete though it is. In Faeryland, we meet the changeling Mayfridh, Christine's best friend when they were children before her sudden disappearance. Spoiled, feckless Mayfridh has feared the 'Real World' since her adopted parents' disappearance on a trip there made her Queen. But she's a Queen without a direct source of magic, since her predecessor entrusted hers to Hexebart, an uncooperative witch who deeply resents Mayfridh and only supplies spells under duress.

Mayfridh's counselor Eisengrimm (bespelled to only take the form of wolf, crow, or bear) coaxes her to travel to the Real World, to expand her horizons and make her a better Queen. He gives Mayfridh a look at Christine's world and persuades her to visit her old friend. Mayfridh instantly falls for Jude. She also encourages Christine to pay a visit to her own 'Autumn Castle', where her friend is delighted to discover that, for the first time since the accident, she feels no pain. There are repeat visits on both sides, and Mandy Z develops an unhealthy interest in Mayfridh and her world (this land of Faery moves rather abruptly through seasons, involving a loss of Real World memories with each transition).

Kim Wilkins has written a compellingly well developed modern gothic, combining horror and fantasy, mystery and romance. Though it's not a genre I generally like, I enjoyed Hexebart's antics very much, found The Autumn Castle engrossing, and its ending most satisfying.

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