Pros: beautiful blend of sci fi and fantasy, solid story, enchanting world and characters
Cons: Not everybody's cup of tea
The Bottom Line: Darkly poetic epic adventure
Once just a green-eyed slave, Aeriel became something more when she was carried off by the same Darkangel that took her beautiful mistress, Eoduin. Her time as Lady in Waiting to all of the vampyre's wraith-like brides reforged her again. Aeriel's time in the desert with the people and Lon of Pender taught her to understand the changes she must make to achieve her goals. Becoming the only person to ever unmake one of the stolen vampyre sons of the White Witch will remake her into a legend.
With only ancient riddles, a handful of relics, loyal friends, a kind heart and a keen intuition Aeriel must race against the powerful Witch's agenda if she is to unlock the ancient Ravenna's gifts and save their world. She has freed Prince Irrylath from most of the enchantments laid upon him by the White Witch, but she cannot free him from his own nightmares. His hallowed heart beats within her now, and the Ancient Ravenna's riddle is weaving a new spell around her, shaping her into a potent weapon aimed at the White Witch and her vampyre sons.
Seven sons to replace seven Lons, made by the Ancients to keep the laws, and ward the lands and their people. Aeriel unmade one vampyre, but she must find other ways to deal with his once ill-gotten brethren now. Great and small, the White Witch's agents are everywhere, searching the lands for the mysterious green-eyed sorceress who challenges her. Staff in hand and cloaked in magic, Aeriel sails away across the Sea of Dust to find the six gargoyles she freed during Irrylath's unmaking.
Only they can free the missing Lons from their magical prison. All six must be found and freed before the armies gathering to Ravenna's cause can move against the White Witch in her enchanted stronghold. Can Aeriel unlock Ravenna's riddles before it is too late? Who were the Ancients that made that made this world, and where have they gone? Can our lost princess find herself within the myths building themselves around her? More importantly, can she put all the pieces together before the Witch unmakes their world?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My Thoughts~~~~~~~~~~
"But first there must assemble those the Icari would claim. A bride in the temple must enter the flame
With steeds found for six brothers, beyond a dust deepsea, And new arrows reckond, a wand given wings--
That when a princess-royal's to have tasted of the Tree, Then far from Esterneese's city, these things:
A gathering of gargoyles, a feasting on the stone, The Witch of Westernesse's hag overthrown..."
Meredith Anne Pierce is a master storyteller. Both her talent and her love of writing is evident on every page. There is a lovely poetic darkness to this trilogy that reminds readers that not all fairy tales had happy endings. Yet the tale also retains a lovely sense of innocence throughout each book, largely due to our hero, Aeriel.
She started out as a nobody; a pale, skinny, green-eyed slave with no real thought beyond the life she was sold into, and no memory from before. Now, she has thirteen golden sisters whose new constellation marks their ascension beyond the cares of this run-down world. Once the soulless brides of a vampyre, Eoduin and the others watch over Aeriel and wait impatiently for her to take her place amongst them.
Prince Irrylath may be considered to be Aeriel's husband by all who know them, but his nightmares prove to them both that the White Witch's memory still divides them. Jealous of his ease around his pretty bandit cousin, Aeriel decides that since he can choose no other to rule his heart until he is truly free from the Witch forever, than she will do whatever must be done to set her beloved free. Telling no one of her intentions, she gathers a few provisions and belongings before sailing away across the Sea of Dust.
Unrequited love, a most common and simple motivator, is the catalyst that begins Aeriel down an irrevocable path in which she must face the destruction of either herself, her desires, or her very world. Aeriel encounters many adventures along her winding path, and makes many amazing discoveries about herself, her world, and the White Witch along the way. Although the answers she finds aren't always what she thought she was looking for! For all her wandering and her mingling with ancient mysteries, Aeriel remains a simple girl at heart.
She does not understand the stories that build around her of being a powerful sorceress sent by the beloved and fabled Ancient, Ravenna, to cast down the terrible White Witch once and for all. By chance, she was given a dwarf cloak which keeps her invisible in sunlight, but as she never disappears from her own sight she does not understand it's nature. One by one she begins gathering the gargoyles she loosed long ago from the tower where the Darkangel once chained them. Greyling, Cat Wing, and Moon Calf, each remembers her kindness and the childish names she gifted them when they were all prisoners of the vampyre. Strangled into silence by the golden collars forced upon them by the Witch, they cannot reveal their secrets even to Aeriel.
There are many clues that Aeriel overlooks and some truths she denies as she moves along her journey. She seems especially set against accepting the possibility that she may be the Queen of Avaric's long lost niece. Although so plain and true is her heart, that even addled by drugs and enchantment she would not betray the loyalty of the friends she made along the way. Aeriel is an elegant embodiment of the self-refreshing innocence required to keep such a kind, loving and true heart. Hers is the quiet strength and self-sacrifice that forges a true hero from an unknown slave. And the magic of this is hopelessly beyond the White Witch's comprehension.
A Gathering of Gargoyles is a perfect middle-of-a-trilogy tale. It delights and enthralls as the splendors and horrors of Aeriel's world are revealed, and the story moves forward. Fairy tale wonder gilds every page and haunts the darker moments of our hero's quest. Pierce manages to weave together such a darkly dreaming adventure that, like Aeriel, we often quite overlook the fact that we are witnessing the birth of legend as our hero comes to understand and accept her destiny.
This beautifully crafted fantasy can easily be enjoyed on its own merits, a rarity for book two in any trilogy, but it also serves as the perfect bridge between Darkangel and the trilogy's conclusion, The Pearl of the Soul of the World. Possibly my favorite of the set, a lot of action takes place and we learn a great deal about Aeriel's fascinating world. From forgotten marvels like the Lighthouse and it's rekindled flame, to the unguessed miracles delivered by the tiny dustshrimp that befriends our hero, Aeriel's tale excites the imagination and invites exploration.
The other vampyres are rather terrifying, being more complete and powerfully evil than Irrylath ever was, and I found it fascinating that they could not even meet Aeriel's eyes since she cut Irrylath's heart from him and gave her own in Darkangel. Such is her innocence, that she cannot even guess at what memories of terrible deeds are imprinted upon the heart she bears... but it drives away even the passing gaze of the Witch's most deadly toys, her Icari who search everywhere for Aeriel. As should happen in any good fairy tale, it seems as though her simpliest actions are rife with meaning, and every forgotten kindness comes back to save our hero when all hope seems lost.
Adventerous and darkly poetic, Pierce has built a world and characters that readers can delight in while unraveling the golden ball of her tale. Filled with all the light and shadow that enlivens a well-told story, Gathering of Gargoyles is pure entertainment that leaves fantasy lovers breathlessly awaiting the final novel. A lovely fire-side fairy tale for grown-ups yet still suitable for younger fantasy readers who aren't daunted by thick books and a luxurious vocabulary. This delightfully Gothic story is a rare blend of fantasy and science fiction.
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About the reviewer
Quinn Blackburn (Entwife)
Hello, my name is Quinn... yes, that really is my first name. :o) I also answer to Mom, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe … more
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Painfully aware that her husband Irrylath is still not free of the White Witch's spell, Aeriel sets out on a dangerous quest to gather the winged steeds that Irrylath and his brothers need to do battle against the powerful witch.