30 January 2007
I finished The Autumn Castle by Kim Wilkins yesterday, and gave myself a day to think about it before posting. This was an interesting read, however not an enthralling one; the characters seemed 3-dimensional but also somewhat forced. The blithe faerie queen, the noble, self-denying beau, the wounded heiress - all great elements for some medieval epic but somehow lessened, grayed out, and smeared in a modern setting. The depiction of the artist's lives in the book represents not any reality of the artists I've known and lived with, but instead some abstracted idea of what kind of idealized life an artist might lead.
The evil genius in the story is the stand-out hideous Mandy Z. From his name to his fascination with his sculptor's grotesque materials, he is altogether ridiculous and pitiful and frightening and utterly, utterly weird. I found myself engaged enough in the telling of his tale to stay focused through the book. He seems unfortunately realistic in the modern age.
I lost faith at times with the book in certain simple ways that the characters are led in the narrative into danger; the protagonist, Christine Starlight, for example, confronts Mandy Z. at one point without any reinforcements, to bad effect. Another character lives for days within reach of a final clue that will resolve decades of struggle for her, and in spite of her sensitivity the author never has her notice the clues, until nearly too late. Such dramatic issues seem jarring, like watching the heroes split up in a B movie, when you're urging them to stick together for safety.
Kim Wilkins provides an interesting bit of writing talking about her inspiration for the book and progress on its writing also.