Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gentle follows her baroque fantasy Rats and Gargoyles with this semi-sequel, featuring two of the previous novel's characters in a far different milieu. The White Crow, aka Valentine, Master Physician of the Invisible College, and her husband, the Lord-Architect Casaubon--both masters of alchemical magics--have retired to the White Crow's estates outside of London. This alternate 17th-century England evokes that of Cromwell's Protectorate, with a few playful changes; here the monarch (Queen rather than King) remains alive, a rallying point for the royalists, and the Protector is a woman as well, General Olivia. The occasional historical figure appears (for example, the anatomist William Harvey) as the White Crow and Casaubon find themselves unwillingly drawn into the intrigues between the two factions. An old friend, Pollexfen Calmady, brings Casaubon to the city to help build a temple--``the eye of the sun''--for the Protector, while a puritan woman, Desire-of-the-Lord Guillaime, induces the White Crow to help in a scheme to encourage the Queen to go into exile. But when Calmady rapes Desire in the White Crow's home, events begin to spiral toward catastrophe. Where the previous novel was at times too complicated and over long, this one errs on the other side, sometimes feeling compressed, its turns of plot underrationalized. But Gentle's witty prose and the unusual and intriguing atmosphere of her world more than compensate. (Mar.)
As the reigning Protector-General and the deposed Queen Carola play an intricate game of plot and counterplot for the control of London, the Lord-Architect and his Master Physician wife become drawn into a web of conspiracy--on opposite sides. The author of Golden Witchbreed (NAL, 1985) and Ancient Light (NAL, 1990) broke new ground in Rats and Gargoyles ( LJ 3/15/91), creating an alternate world in which magical and alchemical principles formed the basis of science and fledgling technology. This sequel represents both a carefully thought-out application of those same principles to affairs of state and a rousing story of intrigue and old-fashioned adventure. Libraries who have already discovered Gentle's unique talent will definitely want this title.
Definitely an odd volume, this, parts of which read like the notes for a longer, though not necessarily better, book. Set in a pagan, sexually egalitarian alternative England undergoing its own version of the seventeenth-century civil war, the story features a husband-and-wife architect and doctor, both of whom possess magical powers and face knotty problems. The architect has to build a temple on cursed ground. The doctor must deal with a rapist and a royal escape. Too much is left undeveloped or put offstage, but what is presented is done with such command of the language and historical detail and such superlative characterization that Gentle may be forgiven far more vices than the book has. Good for most fantasy collections.