Ilario by Mary Gentle
For pure storytelling, don’t-want-to-stop-reading-it fun, Mary Gentle’s two Ilario books, Ilario: The Lion's Eye: A Story of the First History, Book One and Ilario: The Stone Golem: A Story of the First History, Book Two, are among the best I’ve read. I lived in Gentle’s world even when I wasn’t actively reading the books. I dreamt of her Mediterranean Renaissance. I fretted about Ilario. I couldn’t wait to get back to the books when I’d set them down. Gentle’s worldbuilding is extraordinary, her characters are complete individuals, and her plot compelling. This is fantasy with a heart and a mind.
Ilario is a hermaphrodite in every possible sense of the word. He (I shall refer to him as “he” for the sake of convenience only; I could just as easily use... Read More
Mary Gentle(1956- )
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. Gentle also writes erotica under the name Roxanne Morgan.
Ilario — (2006-2007) Publisher: Ilario is born hermaphrodite, a true genetic chimera. Found abandoned on the steps of a chapel of the Green Christ, in one of the minor Iberian kingdoms, on a freezing snowy night, Ilario is fostered by Federico, an impoverished Iberian noble, who plans to gift Ilario to the king, hoping to gain favour at court. At the age of 15, Ilario joins King Roderigo as the King’s Freak, but while learning the ways of the court, Illario has another lesson to study: abandonment and betrayal. For Rosamunda, Ilario’s birth mother, has arrived — and the secret of Ilario’s shameful birth must be kept hidden, lest the resulting scandal ruin Rosamunda’s husband, Videric, the king’s most powerful advisor. When Ilario is freed by the king, he/she is summoned by Rosamunda. And when her attempt to murder her child fails, Rosamunda whispers ‘Run… ‘ And Ilario does… across the Mediterranean, to Carthage.
Ilario by Mary Gentle
Steampunk edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Steampunk is an anthology of, well, steampunk stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. If you hurry, you can still get to this first anthology before the second one, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, appears in mid November. Based on the quality of the stories in this collection, I heartily recommend checking it out, especially if you’ve been a bit bemused (or possibly amused) by all the people wearing odd Victorian costumes at SFF conventions nowadays, or if you have at best a vague idea of what steampunk exactly entails. If you’re one of those people who’s interested in, but not entirely sure about, the new hot subgenre du jour (like me, prior to reading Steampunk), this anthology is here to take you by the hand and give you a quick, entertaining education. And oh, it also contains some truly excel... Read More
Golden Witchbreed — (1983-1987) Publisher: Enter Lynne Christie, envoy of Earth Dominion. Her mission: to establish first contact with Orthe’s government and evaluate Orthe’s readiness for further Dominion relations, a mission delayed mysteriously by her predecessor’s untimely death upon the Inner Sea.
Rat Lords — (1990-1994) Publisher: In a nameless city situated somewhere between the past and the future, the wicked Rat Lords rule over their human slaves, and only Prince Lucas of Candover and Zari have what it takes to battle them.
The Book of Ash — (1999-2000) Publisher: In the mid-fifteenth century there was Burgundy, the jewel of Europe-opulent and powerful, the undisputed center of an uncivilized world. In an epoch of war and madness there was Ash. A girl born in mud and dung, she slew her first men while only eight. Scarred and ravaged, but still beautiful, she rose up to lead a great mercenary army before the age of twenty — and followed a sacred voice wise in the bloody ways of battle to a pinnacle unattainable to even the most potent of legends. In a time when empires and alliances shifted like sand — when Mithras the bull was worshipped freely alongside the Christ — a great cloud arose out of Africa to darken the sun. The Visigoths came with their terrible machines — powered by magic or a science unknown to this day — and aimed their irresistible might toward the rich Burgundian prize, wrenching the wheel of civilization in an unknown and unexpected direction. And with their coming, one incomparable warrior raised on Destiny’s ash heap became more that anyone thought one woman could ever be.
The Black Opera — (2012) Publisher: Naples, the 19th Century. In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, holy music has power. Under the auspices of the Church, the Sung Mass can bring about actual miracles like healing the sick or raising the dead. But some believe that the musicodramma of grand opera can also work magic by channeling powerful emotions into something sublime. Now the Prince’s Men, a secret society, hope to stage their own black opera to empower the Devil himself – and change Creation for the better! Conrad Scalese is a struggling librettist whose latest opera has landed him in trouble with the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Rescued by King Ferdinand II, Conrad finds himself recruited to write and stage a counter opera that will, hopefully, cancel out the apocalyptic threat of the black opera, provided the Prince’s Men, and their spies and saboteurs, don’t get to him first. And he only has six weeks to do it…