St. Patrick's Gargoyle
Reviewed: June 25, 2004
By: Katherine Kurtz
Publisher: Ace Books
264 pages, $9.99
Katherine Kurtz is best known for her Welsh inspired tales of the Dernyi, a race of mystic kings who hide their true abilities among their non-magical subjects in the way that Harry Potter is supposed to hide his powers when he's not at Hogwarts.
In collaboration with Deborah Turner Harris, she has also produced a set of modern day supernatural adventures reminiscent of the work of Dennis Wheatley, as well as a number of books about the Knights Templar.
I suppose it would be possible to connect St. Patrick's Gargoyle with any of those, but it's hardly necessary. This adventure is set in present day Dublin and deals with a different sort of magic than Kurtz usually dabbles in.
There are two central characters. The first is a gargoyle, which is actually the stone form used to hide the real, much more terrifying, form of an Avenging Angel. They are set on earth to guard consecrated places. This one guards St. Patrick's Cathedral and so is known as St. Patrick's Gargoyle, or Paddy to his friends.
Most of his friends are other gargoyles, which are scattered about the city. This is because the company of gargoyle/angels is somewhat dangerous to humankind, especially if we should see their actual forms, which can only happen in a black mirror. Even the reflected glory of the Lord is too much for mortals.
The mortal in question is Francis Templeton, a former chauffeur and member of the Knights of Malta. Retired gents in their eighties don't generally get up to much in the way of adventures, but the little gargoyle hood ornament on his ancient Rolls Royce serves to connect him to Paddy.
Their association begins lightly enough, with Paddy tracking down some vandals who have stolen the alms basins from St. Patrick's cathedral while he was off at a conclave with his fellows. With Templeton's help (for gargoyles are a bit conspicuous, especially by day) he manages to get around the city and capture the miscreants, pretty much scaring them into submission.
That might have been it, just those first 46 pages, except for the accident that caused Templeton to see Paddy's true form briefly, and the far more serious theft that took place in a crypt. Indeed, Templeton spends the next several chapters trying to prove to himself that he didn't just hallucinate the entire thing.
He didn't. In fact, his adventure with Paddy is going to have a severe impact on his life span, even considering that he isn't in good health to begin with. Templeton's next few days are his last, but during that time he becomes embroiled in an even greater adventure with Paddy, one in which he is a key player in saving the world from a great demon which a satanic cult is attempting to free from its prison.
Kurtz has always had a great time mixing up versions of Christianity with Old Age/New Age mysticism, and she pulls out all the stops here. The flavour of this is like that of the Adept series, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find references to the mythology she has created here pop up in her other books.
As a amusing side note, Kurtz apparently wrote this with an awareness that people might think of the Disney animated adventure series called Gargoyles and she actually makes reference to it a few times in the book.
The idea of having her gargoyles assigned to guard places is somewhat similar, though the notion that their current status is due to events in the New Testament is different.
As Paddy explains it: "The Boss has mellowed a lot ... I think it started when His Son joined the Firm."
It's an amusing line in a book which is by turns serious and light hearted. It was a good adventure with a satisfying ending.