Rats and Gargoyles/The Architecture of Desire Analysis

Mary Gentle

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

These two novels describe political intrigue. In Rats and Gargoyles, a culture of humans and humanoid rats struggles under the control of gods that inhabit the Fane, a vast palace with underground caverns. The novel chronicles a struggle among gods, men, and rats during the time of a major cultural change.

For centuries, the city at the heart of the world, which by inference sets the standard for the rest of the world, has been immersed in a huge building project called the Fane, which is inhabited by thirty-six gods. The city is ruled by the Rat King, actually eight rats of human proportion connected by their tails. Humans are slaves or servants of the rats, or, if they have some measure of freedom, are subject to the rats’ orders. They share a grim existence at the mercy of plague, starvation, overwork, and whims of the gods. The few who are educated may choose more conventional studies or may pursue magia or even the study of crime.

The story progresses through groups of individuals, male and female, rat and human, who study or teach at the University of Crime, men and women who are members of an organization called the Invisible College of scholar-soldiers, the gods in the Fane, and the court of the Rat King. Although the culture apparently is in a state of equilibrium, change is portended by White Crow, a scholar-soldier, physician, and member of the Invisible College. Her call for assistance to other members begins defensive measures that will save human and rat alike, but individuals from all the groups play a part.

One of the gods decides to change the balance of power between himself and his thirty-five companions. The Lord of Noon and Midnight has compelled humans and rats to help him kill off all thirty-six gods so that he alone can be reborn. This leaves the human world open to chaotic forces such as plague, plots by the Rat King to protect rats but not humans, plots by the humans to protect one another, and a palace coup. When the dust (literally) settles, the god is reborn as a large black gelding and walks among humans, the Fane falls, other gods come into the light of...

(The entire section is 871 words.)