IN THE SHADOW OF THE GARGOYLE
Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick & Thomas S. Roche
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche, the editors of the theme anthology In the Shadow of the Gargoyle, seem to have been very careful in selecting stories which treated their chosen theme, gargoyles, with a level of reverence which is frequently missing from theme anthologies. While most such anthologies may boast one or two stories which can stand on their own, the vast majority of stories in theme anthologies require the existence of the anthology to justify their creation. The majority of the stories in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle would stand up very well on their own, and some of them would even benefit from being published apart from the rest of the gargoyle stories.
Three of the tales in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle have managed to exhibit their ability to stand apart from the theme. Charles de Lint's "May This Be Your Last Sorrow," Brian Lumley's "The Luststone" and Harlan Ellison's "Bleeding Stones" are all reprints which succeed to varying degrees. Ellison's contribution, which closes out the anthology, is perhaps the strongest of the reprints demonstrating how gargoyles can simultaneously be guardians and avengers.
The flexibility of gargoyles is one of the things which makes In the Shadow of the Gargoyle so varied. The authors have chosen to use gargoyles as protectors and monsters, symbols of failure and hope. While many of the stories would fit firmly into the realm of dark fantasy, there is enough room for the gargoyles in humor, science fiction and epic fantasy.
One of the strongest pieces in the book is Brian Hodge's "Cenotaph," about a photographer, Kate, who returns to her ancestral home to do a photo essay about the Church of St. John the Baptist, which was built in the fourteenth century by her lineal ancestor, Geoffrey Blackburn. Hodge manages to capture the atmosphere of a small English church and the surrounding village quite well in this strange blend of Christianity and Celtic lore.
The gargoyles of Katherine Kurtz's Ireland have firm opinions about their Catholicism and Protestantism in "The Gargoyle's Shadow," but when crimes begin to happen within their respective churchyards, the gargoyles agree to work together to protect that which they were set to ward. Both her gargoyles and humans are well drawn and interact with each other.
Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris combine to write the closest thing In the Shadow of the Gargoyle has to a humorous story. The humor in "Studies in Stone" is quite understated in a tale about a gargoyle, Gryx, in a Scottish university town. After spending centuries watching professors and students walking below (and getting water dumped on them from gargoyles), Gryx decides it is time for him to attend the university. In the process he learns that even while moving beyond one's roots, there are certain things which can't be ignored.
Many of the stories are set on the darker boundaries of modern human existence, with drugs featuring heavily in Christa Faust & Caitlín Kiernan's "Found Angels" and Melanie Tem's "Hagoday." These stories are weakened by the possibility that the protagonists' interactions with gargoyles is drug induced rather than "real." A similar situation infects "The Gargoyle's Song" by Alan Rodgers, which starts with the promising tale of a young artist who has finally decided it is time to leave New York. By imposing an illness upon his character, Cathy Gilman, Rodgers puts into question her experiences and motivations.
The major problem with In the Shadow of the Gargoyle has nothing to do with the writing or selection of the stories, but rather with the packaging. A decision was made to use a font for titles which rendered apostrophes as í and the letter í as ó. This means that Don D'Ammassa's name is printed as Don DíAmmassa, Caitlín Kiernan becomes Caitlón Kiernan and "The Gargoyle's Shadow" is "The Gargoyleís Shadow." It is amazing that such an error could make its way into the published book.
In the Shadow of the Gargoyle will appeal to anyone who loves dark fantasy. The stories, even the weaker ones, are all good enough to stand on their own, and some would be improved for it. The editorial process involved with making In the Shadow of the Gargoyle should be held up as an example of the type of decisions which should be made whenever a theme anthology is contemplated. To do so would improve their general quality and do much to revitalize the original science fiction and fantasy anthology format.
|Charles L. Grant||The Soft Sound of Wings|
|Neil Gaiman||How Do You Think It Feels?|
|Katherine Kurtz||The Gargoyle's Shadow|
|Don D'Ammassa||Scylla and Charybdis|
|Jane Yolen & Robert J. Harris||Studies in Stone|
|Charles de Lint||May This Be Your Last Sorrow|
|Nancy Holder||Little Dedo|
|Alan Rodgers||The Gargoyle's Song|
|Brian Lumley||The Luststone (excerpt)|
|Christa Faust & Caitlín R. Kiernan||Found Angels|
|Jo Clayton||The Hour of the Sisters|
|Wendy Webb||Smiling Beasties|
|Marc Levinthal & John Mason Skipp||Now Entering Monkeyface|
|Harlan Ellison||Bleeding Stones|
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