Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle

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Mary Gentle is an author whose imagination and talent know no bounds. In her novels, she has unerringly built distant worlds and cultures so real, so fully fleshed out, that readers feel they have been literally transported to these exotic climes, to walk their ancient, crumbling pathways on a fascinating search for the most terrifying secrets of alien races far more advanced than our own.

With Rats and Gargoyles she turns her amazing abilities not to a future that might one day be but to a past that might have been, to a mythic realm at “the heart of the world”.
It is a time and a land ruled by the Hermetic magia of the Renaissance, by secret, almost forgotten Masonic rites, and by the all-encompassing presence of the thirty-six Decans, the god-daemons incarnate in living stone. In this labyrinthine city where more is concealed below ground than is visible above, the forces of conflict are about to be unchained. Men and women, and beings not quite related to the human race, are slowly, inevitably brought together to enact their individual roles in a drama as compelling
and complex as the finest Jacobean play, a convoluted quest for survival at a moment when death’s unmaking threatens to overwhelm the entire universe.

For five long years the White Crow has waited in the city denying her own identity as Scholar-Soldier of the Invisible College. Long has she watched for the signs of change. But now she can wait no longer, and she writes symbols on the face of the moon in her own all too human blood to summon aid which may not come, or coming, may not prove strong enough. Among those who will respond, knowingly or not, are: the young Prince Lucas, newly arrived to study at the University of Crime; the Lord-Architect of the Invisible College, come to build his finest creation for the eight-bodied Rats-King, Zari, a young Katayan woman who will become the living Memory of all that follows; the Hyena, a woman warrior prepared to lead the last free humans in one final, desperate revolt: the Rat Priest Plessiez, whose Machiavellian schemes will propel all the mortals at the heart of the world toward an unstoppable gods-created doom.

But in a city where the gods themselves dwell, and where their lesser minions, the Rat Lords and the Gargoyle Acolytes, have reduced humankind to little more than slaves, can even this conjunction of events and players create magic powerful enough to reshape the very nature of existence, an existence which the god-daemons seem to have at last decided to end?



Rats and Gargoyles is a thoroughly original and witty fantasy novel – the kind we’ve all been saying must come along some day, yet had almost given up hoping to find. I was surprised not by Mary Gentle’s talent – she has always had that – but by the extraordinary individuality of her vision. It’s an outstanding novel on every level and I’d cheerfully guarantee that it will bring a sense of the marvelous back into the lives of jaded readers-while the unjaded had better prepare themselves for something pretty special.

From her wonderful opening scene – surely one of the best ever done – Gentle draws you into a bizarre and yet oddly familiar world of strange reversals and unlimited surprises, paradoxes, puzzles, a world dominated by the logic of alchemy, where a God may live just around the next corner. Once you’ve entered “the heart of the world” you will never, never want to leave…

–Michael Moorcock, author of Dancers at the End of Time and The Cornelius Chronicles

Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle

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Weight0.7 kg

Roc (1991)




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