Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Autumn Castle

by Kim Wilkins


Immanuel Zweigler, also known as Mandy Z, believes himself to be something special. In public he's a renowned sculptor, but thanks to a smattering of fairy heritage he has fantastic senses of smell and touch, and extraordinary luck. On the downside, he has no colour vision whatsoever, and a compulsion to hunt faeries for their bones.

The Autumn Castle is set partly in modern-day Berlin and partly in a rural and pre-industrial faeryland. Christine Starlight is a rich girl who works in a bookshop and socialises with artists. She suffers from chronic pain, the result of a car crash that robbed her of her famous parents.

A mark on her finger reminds Christine of a childhood friend who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. She finds herself connected to faeryland through this friend, whilst the two worlds are briefly aligned and passage between them is possible. This faeryland is an otherworld where magic exists and Christine can be free of her crippling pain.

Queen Mayfridh is eager to visit Berlin, and whilst there she becomes drawn to Jude, Christine's artistic lover. Unfortunately the artists are all resident at the house of Immanuel Zweigler. By visiting the real world, the queen is unknowingly placing herself and her entire land in serious danger.

Meanwhile the witch Hexebart is plotting escape and revenge. She has possession of the royal magic, and has been imprisoned in a well for years. Convinced that Mayfridh is responsible for the murders of the previous king and queen, the witch is prepared to use all her cunning to achieve her ends.

Mayfridh tends to come across as spoilt and decadent, and she often ignores the advice of the long-suffering Eisengrimm, her counsellor. Eisengrimm is a shape-changer who takes the form of various animals, and he has some secrets of his own. In this book most of the main characters are harbouring some sort of inner darkness or mystery.

Of all of them, Mandy Z has the most to hide. But he is a psychopathic ogre who makes an implausible villain. He is simply too evil and too irrationally motivated to provoke any sympathy. Readers are left wondering whether the good guys will figure things out in time, but since events are so weird who could blame them for not guessing? The other characters are more rounded than Mandy Z, so their love triangles and intrigues manage to sustain interest.

Everything is set against the background of an imminent move to the Winter Castle and the forgetfulness that comes with a change of season. Time is against them, so there is a sense of urgency and a good pace to the story. The Autumn Castle effectively balances an eerie otherworld atmosphere with the drab nature of humdrum urban existence. One passage towards the end of the book owes a little too much to the "Once upon a time" school of storytelling, but otherwise this is an engaging read which mixes horror, jealousy, romance and magic into an entertaining and original supernatural tale.

Book Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson