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bear by san

December 2021



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comics bone stupid stupid rat creatures

44.) Mary Gentle, Ilario: The Lion's Eye

I love the worldbuilding, the various physicians, the hot eunuch and the not-dead, not-gay dad, and the premise of painters inventing realism makes me wish I loved the rest of the novel, but the wandering tenses, plethora of exclamation points, and abrupt transitions gave me problems. And Ilario is so desperately too stupid to live that I kept wanting to shake and shake and shake him/her.


and the not-dead, not-gay dad

I am extremely fond of Honorius. On contemplation, my problem with the book was that it would have been far more interesting if Ilario had ended up with Sulva: Rekhmire' was the obvious choice.
As near as I can tell, Sulva was completely structurally random. Which is sad, because if your character is going to do something THAT DUMB, it ought to at least drive the plot for a few hundred pages.
Alas. I will read the second half one of these days, though.
I haven't read this, but a "plethora of exclamation points"? I pretty much always consider that a reason to stop reading.
That exactly what I thought of it, and why it has the rare dishonour of being a book I actually got rid of.
I haven't read this one - but I do remember the fuss when John Brunner (I think it was) said of Rats and Gargoyles that Mary Gentle hadn't yet fully mastered the actual craft of writing. Now, I rather like Rats and Gargoyles but saw exactly what he meant about the style. (I had my own problems in the first chapter with lads being taught how to guard against cutpurses in a society where they turned out not to be allowed money, but I digress.) I haven't read any Gentle since a failed attempt at Ash, but it seems from your review that the stylistic flaws remain.

Hope you don't suffer the pile-on that happened to Mr Brunner...
I remember really liking the first book in the duology, but not the second. However, I have a soft spot for historical-ish novels with intersex protags, ever since reading Gray Jennings's Raptor when I was in college. (I am not sure how many books like this there are out there, now that I think about it. Possibly only the Gentle and Jennings...)
I read this duology in one lump (the UK edition). I was very happy with it; I think it's the best of Gentle's alt-history fantasy novels.

I realize that that's not a great recommendation, in the context of this post. :) But if you thought, as I did, that _Rats and Gargoyles_ was a wonderful mishmash in search of a novel, and (say) _1610_ was just wallowing in bitterness, then _Ilario_ is worth reading. A flawed novel is a step up, and it is full of terrific people.
The only work of Mary Gentle I've been able to read is ASH, and even that was a little dicey in spots. They're always books that look like I would love them, but so many things get in the way - quirks or characterization, writing style...
I loved Golden Witchbreed.
I don't think I've tried that one.

*checks shelf*

Nope. I've started White Crow, 1610, and Grunts, and couldn't finish any of them. There are a couple more on my shelf that I haven't been brave enough to try.
Returning to add: I think the thing that disappointed me most was that there aren't an awful lot of hermaphrodite protagonists out there - and now every one that follows is going to automatically be judged as an Ilario rip off. Which is a shame, because Ilario is an idiot.

I don't have a great track record with Mary Gentle, to be honest. Like one of the above posters, I always buy the books because they look interesting and I'm always disappointed. I loved Ash, until I got to the revelation about what was going on, which absolutely ruined it for me. Because it was just daft.
I dunno. I wrote an intersexed character, and pretty much nobody noticed....

...I guess they just expect this kind of behavior from me.
I think Ilario grew enough brain cells to survive the second book. Was less infuriating, at least. Book still flawed, but definitely had worthwhile moments.