Once Upon an Autumn Eve
by Dennis L. McKiernan
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460693
Date: 04 April, 2006 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Liaze's brother, Alain (Summer) and Borel (Winter), have come through their adventures with new loves - but the Fates have sent portents that greater dangers are yet to surface. Within her own domain, Liaze seeks to relax after a busy day...when a knight rides into her secluded clearing and falls at her feet. Without time for introductions, she is attacked by Goblins and a Troll, but the attack is repelled; clearly, the new arrival is being chased by trouble.
Or perhaps not. Consulting the knight (whose name is Luc), it seems that a witch - an enemy of her family - may be moving against the Autumnwood directly. With the attack averted, however, Luc becomes a guest in Autumnwood Manor... and he and Liaze discover a powerful mutual attraction. As they approach an understanding, Luc is taken in the night, leaving Liaze to follow as best she can.
With a bit of rhyme from one of the Fates as a guide, Liaze gets help from sprites, crosses a wasteland, befriends a captive named Gwyd, and pieces together clues as she tries to discover where the witch Iniqui has gone with her true love. And there's the little matter of assorted terrible Lords and the Wild Hunt as well...
No one ever said the course of true love ran smoothly.
McKiernan inverts the traditional fairy tale motif of "knight rescues damsel" by having Liaze undertake the quest to rescue Luc. He gives her plenty of companions along the way, including sprites and the aforementioned Gwyd, but Liaze is in command of this quest. She is more a thinker than a fighter, though she proves capable with a bow and a sword; her challenges are mostly cerebral, riddles and problems to be solved with wit rather than muscle and force. She's a terrific character, not precisely in the mold of Buffy or Xena but more like Lara Croft (if you need a pop culture point of reference).
Luc is a hero in his own right, yet serves primarily as the object of romance - the reward for Liaze's travails. Her companions, Gwyd and Twk, are helpful but don't step on Liaze's heroics. In all, they represent a suitable combo of questors and true love.
As for the setting, McKiernan's Faery draws heavily from the French fairy tradition, a resonance strengthened by his liberal use of French words and terms. Although it may seem a small flourish, this adds greatly to the setting's otherworldly nature and demonstrates McKiernan's mastery at evoking the tiniest details of such a dreamlike land.
Readers need not have read the previous two novels, Once Upon a Summer Day and Once Upon a Winter Night, but anyone who's read them will enjoy the continuing adventures of this remarkable faery family. Likewise, readers who enjoy a well-told tale, full of enchantment and high adventure, will discover wonders and marvels to beguile their time.