Friday's review. Yeah, I'm behind. I just moved across the country. Give me a break.
Mary Gentle is one of the fantasy/SF authors I most respect. She doesn't play with the conventions, she guts, fillets, and grills them. In Ancient Light, the sequel to Golden Witchbreed, she gives - I won't say the reader, but maybe the reader's expectations - a big 'Fuck You'. In Grunts!, she eviscerated high fantasy with an X-rated look at life in the Orc Marines.
So when I was scooping up books at the Seattle Public Library, trying to get back to my car before the meter ran out, and saw Rats and Gargoyles, I grabbed it gladly.
Prince Lucas, new student at the Invisible College, is our ingenue. Valentine and Casaubon, Gentle's universe-hopping, larger-than-life heros, provide the real pretty pictures. She's a hot sword-wielding bisexual magic-user. He's a poorly dressed, grossly obese Lord-Arhitect. True love!
Mary Gentle's work is multi-layered and demands an active reader. Part of this is the lack of exposition. We're launched straight into a bizarre, weird world without explanation. There are people with tails. Huge talking Rats with swords. Flying lizards, serving incarnate gods. The other part is the lack of internal dialogue - we never get spoon-fed the emotions or thoughts of the major actors. We are required to figure out their motivations and plans from their actions. Which, frankly, is not easy. At the end of the book I still wasn't quite sure what had gone on. That's ok, I was entranced by the pretty pictures anyhow.
Gentle's fantasy (she claims it's SF, but isn't that debate so over?) is as refreshing as a tall, cold, glass of water. In the face.
Recommended for fans of Iain Banks, China Mieville, Gene Wolfe.