Rats and Gargoyles/The Architecture of Desire Critical Essays

Mary Gentle


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Set in an alternative past that mixes alchemy, magia, and the beginnings of technology such as airship travel, analytical engineers, and neo-classical architectural concepts, Mary Gentle’s two novels chronicle major and minor adventures of an unlikely pair of lovers: the scholar-soldier, master physician, and magus White Crow and her tall, large, brilliant husband, Lord Architect Causabon. Both are members of an Invisible College of scholar-soldiers reminiscent of the Masons. The two characters also appear in two short stories, “Beggars in Satin” and “The Knot Garden,” published in the anthology Scholars and Soldiers (1989). The setting of both novels, which mixes magic and technology, has internal consistencies and shows the author’s background in seventeenth century studies through its parallels to actual historical events in England during the years surrounding the rule of Oliver Cromwell and the protectorate. Many of her key political and military figures, however, are female, such as the protectorate general, Olivia, and various scholar-soldiers, priests, and bishops.

Rats and Gargoyles and The Architecture of Desire are the fifth and sixth books by Gentle. They follow the better-known Orthe novels— Golden Witchbreed (1983) and Ancient Light (1987)—and a children’s book, her first published work, A Hawk in Silver (1977). Scholars and Soldiers (1989) is a collection of stories...

(The entire section is 602 words.)