When Autumn, the mysterious shaman of Avening, solicits written entries from local women vying for a position as her apprentice, she's searching for her own replacement. But what, exactly, does Autumn do? the townspeople question. No one knows. Intuitively, everyone knows Autumn corrals magic. And so, one by one, curious letters arrive in Autumn's mailbox, each with a different woman's perspective on the job in question, what it might entail, and why she wants it.
In When Autumn Leaves, Amy Foster permits guarded entrance into Autumn's magical world, where women are trained to harness different magical gifts only to separate, and even less insight into the true purpose of the enchanted world she's envisioned. Leaving room for a sequel? A distinct possibility, though Foster's lack of clarity here may hurt the future of the franchise.
Will Autumn choose Sylvie, who recently lost her mother? Ana, a teacher in love with a married man? Ellie the invisible researcher? Stella, a healer who captures lightning in a bottle? Or another. The letters continue to arrive and, as each applicant's story twines into Autumn's, the story grows taut with suspense.
Foster creates an amorphously lovely town, one that strong women find curiously inviting for no singular reason. Slightly muddled and frumpy, though beloved, Foster's characters shine with crisp edges and clear purpose. If only the plotline could stand up to her character development.
A fun fall read with finely-tuned focus on the strength of women, though the real feat here is that, despite a tightly-wrapped ending, you'll wish there was more.
When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster
Overlook Press ($14.95)
October 1, 2009
Review based on a free copy of this book, courtesy of the publisher.