Author Andrew Davidson
A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne’s care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.
GEMS: The anti-hero, an orphan raised by an aunt and uncle who are meth addicts, turns porn star, production owner and raging addict, eventually crashes and burns, literally. How could one character have so many flaws and still be irresistably interesting? It does seem over the top, but the opening is intriguing and immediately sucks the reader into this dark underworld. And, if his misfortunes weren’t bad enough, here enters mentality unstable artist, Marianne. Who invites herself into his own person ‘Hell’ on Earth. The dynamic characters kept me hooked and were highly individually developed. I liked the many imperfections and the use of both physical and mental defects. It gave depth thematically and visually. Note: Other reviews warn the physical details of debridement and burns is graphic, but I found it fitting and not in any way offensive.
FLAWS: Perhaps others will not agree with me on this point, but I did not care for the ‘flashback,’ comparable stories. I understand they were used to provide background, but I lost interest and was eager to get back to the main characters that I had grown to love to dislike. As the story wore on, Marianne became less interesting because all her gritty, human flaws began to morph into an angelic detailing or ‘savior’ figure. She appears, she helps, then she’s gone. I was dissatisfied and honestly got a bit bored with her routine and stories. Everything was so neatly taken care of, but hardly answered. I believe the intent was to leave the reader wondering about the truth to Marianne, but I felt more let down. I didn’t get the same boost from her character in the end as I did in the beginning. Her lasting impression made me think of her more as a fraud than a savior, and I’m not certain this was the author’s intention, or was it?