Medieval alternate historians rarely conceive such wondrously convincing intrigue as Gentle has in this second installment of the First History series (after The Lion's Eye). The action sweeps Ilario, a young hermaphrodite artist, from giving Caesarian birth to a daughter in Venice to befriending Pharaoh-Queen Ty-ameny in Alexandria-in-exile at Constantinople. A turn of fate sees a Chinese war junk taking Ilario first home to Iberia to negotiate with King Rodrigo and then to mighty Carthage, gloomy under the mysterious sunless Penitence but still capable of menacing the civilized world. Gentle's fascinating protagonist, as clever with words as with line and color, plays off a colorful host of fine-tuned characters like the noble Captain-General Honorius, the Alexandrine castrato-by-choice spy Rekhmire'; and the handsome Ramiro Carrasco, Ilario's would-be assassin and later slave. Historical figures like Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, add depth to this rousing adventure, and the intricate plots allow plenty of room for Gentle's subtle, ironic commentary on politics and gender. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Ilario: The Stone Golem: Book 2by Mary Gentle
The dramatic conclusion to Ilario: The Lion's Eye!
Fleeing a surprise treacherous murder attempt, the former King's Freak and would-be painter Ilario has run to Carthage, the city-state under perpetual darkness, in search of freedom. But strange plots are afoot, and a tenuous, complicated alliance with a bookseller-turned-spy will lead Ilario from the
The dramatic conclusion to Ilario: The Lion's Eye!
Fleeing a surprise treacherous murder attempt, the former King's Freak and would-be painter Ilario has run to Carthage, the city-state under perpetual darkness, in search of freedom. But strange plots are afoot, and a tenuous, complicated alliance with a bookseller-turned-spy will lead Ilario from the shrouded land into tense negotiations and intrigues in seductive, mercurial Venice, from a fraught return to Iberia to a final confrontation with family . . . and destiny.
Read an Excerpt
Ilario: The Stone Golem
A Story of the First History, Book Two
Ramiro Carrasco has not seen me as a man!
It was the only thought in my head.
I couldn't breathe. His hands pressed cloth and a bulk of goose-down feathers into my mouth and nose. My vision blacked into sparkles.
My chest hurt as I tried and failed to pull in air.
It can happen just this easily!—because people are busy for a few minutes looking at the baby, because these curtains are drawn—
'Ilario's heart stopped.' Even Physician Baris¸ will say so. The labour of having the baby. Too much for a hermaphrodite body. Even Rekhmire' will believe it. The midwife will confirm it. Ramiro Carrasco has nothing to do now but wait until my face is blue and then scream out an alarm that I'm not breathing—
And Ramiro Carrasco has never seen me dressed as a man.
The pillow blinded me towards the left field of my vision, but left a sliver of my right eye clear. Carrasco stared down at me, his expression curiously desperate as he bore down with his full weight.
I had time to think Shouldn't I be the desperate one? and ceased to claw at the pillow, and at his rock-hard muscles.
I let my arm fall out loosely to the side, over the edge of the bed.
Hard ceramic clipped the tips of my fingers.
My heart thudded hard enough to take the remaining air out of my lungs. My ribs ached with trying to breathe. And— Yes, this is where I saw one of the servants set down a water-jug. A brown-glazed pint jug, with a narrow neck, and two moulded loops forlifting.
My head throbbed under the pressure of his hands. I slid my fingers through the glazed loops at the jug's neck, gripped tightly, and locked my elbow. The weight pulling on tendon and muscle told me it was still completely full.
Lifting pottery and the weight of water together, barely able to see where I aimed past the pillow and his arm, I brought the jug round in a hard arc. And crashed it into the side of Ramiro Carrasco's head.
With all the muscular strength of an arm that, while it isn't male, isn't female either.
Pottery smashed. Water sprayed.
Pressure lifted up off my face.
For a moment I couldn't see—couldn't claw the pillow away from my nose and mouth—
A noise sounded to the side of me. A tremendous crash.
Clear air hissed into my lungs.
Rekhmire' stood looking down, pillow in his hand; there were the backs of four or five men behind him, low down, on the floor—
Kneeling on someone on the floor.
'Ilario!' A knee landed beside me on the other side of the bed; Honorius's lean and chilly hand felt roughly at my neck. Feeling for my heartbeat.
'I'm alive!' I gasped. Pain ached through my entire body. I hitched myself up on my elbows and gazed down past Rekhmire', at where Orazi and Viscardo and Saverico were kneeling on, and punching at, the slumped figure of Ramiro Carrasco de Luis.
'Don't kill him,' I added weakly. 'I want to.'
Honorius gave out with a deep-bellied laugh, and ruffled my sweatsoaked hair. 'That's my son-daughter!'
'What—?' Federico stepped forward from the thunderstruck family group, boggling down at Carrasco. His shock looked genuine. 'What did he . . . He can't have tried— There must be some mistake—!'
The door banged opened hard enough to bruise the wood panelling, Neferet and her midwife and priest piled into the room, together with those others of Honorius's men within earshot. Tottola and his brother between them completely blocked the doorway.
I felt tension infuse Honorius, through his hand on my scalp.
He looked across, caught Orazi's eye, nodded at Aldra Federico, and then at the door. 'Get them out of here!'
Federico blustered, Sunilda burst into tears, Reinalda threw her arms around her sister and led her out through the door. Valdamerca, tall enough to look Orazi in the eye, made a fist and punched at the sergeant's mail-covered chest as he and the two German men-at-arms bodily shoved all of my foster family out of the room.
The slamming two-inch-thick oak cut off Valdamerca's virulent complaints and protestations of innocence.
Still coughing and choking, I got out, 'I don't suppose they did know he'd do that!'
'They don't matter.' Honorius spoke with enough habitual authority that I didn't for the moment desire to question him. He beckoned with his free hand. 'Physician. Come and see to this! I want Ilario thoroughly checked.'
Rekhmire' stood back as Baris¸ bent over me.
I reached out one hand to the Egyptian, and one to Honorius on the other side, and squeezed both hard. 'The son of a bitch tried to kill me!'
Rekhmire's severe face was grey, under the ruddy tone of his skin. 'We should not have let him lull us.'
Honorius turned back from confirming with the Turkish physician that, yes, I might have bruises, and yes, I had been constricted as to air, but in fact there was—as I wanted to shout—nothing wrong with me!
'Nothing that eighteen hours of labour doesn't put into the shade . . . ' I may have muttered that aloud.
Honorius pulled his hand-and-a-half sword half out of its scabbard, the noise muffled by the loud room. 'Finally. Finally, we don't have to worry about Carrasco any longer!'
Neferet, the Venetian midwife, Physician Baris¸, and Father Azadanes all raised their voices, crowding around Honorius, impeding his swordarm.
He ignored them, looking only at me.
I stared down off the edge of the bed, at Ramiro Carrasco de Luis sprawled supine on the floorboards.
Unconscious, by the trickle of blood staining his chin. Or perhaps he'd just bitten himself while mailed fists were punching him.
His face was bruised, bloody; his lashes fluttered a little and were still. I saw the pulse beating in his throat.Ilario: The Stone Golem
A Story of the First History, Book Two. Copyright © by Mary Gentle. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
The author of A Secret History, Mary Gentle has written eight books that have won critical acclaim from science fiction and fantasy authors and critics alike. She's completed two Master degrees and is an expert sword-fighter. Her home resides in England
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Spanish King Rodrigo freed Ilario, the hermaphroditic freak, whose male and female sexual organs work, was abandoned by his mother at birth (see ILARIO: THE LION¿S EYE). However, all is not idyllic for the mixed man-woman but he decides to become an apprentice painter in Roma. However, before he departs someone tries to kill him. He flees Spain stopping in Carthage where the darkness of the Penitence leaves a cloud on everyone¿s soul. However, Carthage proves a terrible mistake as he is captured and sold as a slave to the highest bidder. Having tasted slavery before, Ilario vows to regain his freedom and continue his trek to Roma. However, he-she is fortunate to have a kind master, a book collecting castrato. Ilario will soon learn the identity of his assassin, who tries again to kill him-her. Lady Rosamunda needs Ilario dead as she climbs the aristocratic ladder in Carthage if the truth of her greatest shame came out she would be ostracized especially by master Egyptian scholar Rekhmire. --- Set in the Ash alternate historical universe, but decades earlier, Ilario is a terrific character driven tale that grips the audience from the onset as the author gently challenges readers¿ concepts of reality with fascinating plausible spins and twists. Ilario is an interesting protagonist who thinks of people through which of his genders they have not yet met while Rosamunda¿s motive to having him killed seems genuine especially anchoring the late fifteenth century era. Although one does not need to read the Ash saga, fans need to peruse THE LION¿S EYE as THE STONE GOLEM is book two of the Story of the First History, Ilario's tale. --- Harriet Klausner