In this “charming” fantasy by the author of the Deryni novels, a gargoyle guardian and a Knight of Malta defend a Dublin cathedral and battle a demon (Booklist, starred review).
The gargoyles of Dublin, Ireland, have a sacred duty to perform. Formerly God’s avenging angels, for centuries they have been entrusted with guarding the churches and cathedrals of the Irish capital while avoiding all contact with human beings. But once a month these loyal stone sentries must leave their posts to attend a conclave of their kind, and it is during one such absence that a sacrilege occurs.
The guardian of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the gargoyle Padraig, called “Paddy,” has returned to find violence and vandalism committed at his church and two silver artifacts stolen. Taking to Dublin’s night streets in search of a culprit, Paddy inadvertently reveals himself to an aged chauffeur in an ancient Rolls Royce, thereby dooming Francis Templeton to an impending premature death. But the grim reaper will have to wait, because old man Templeton is a member of the Knights of Malta, a secret order of defenders of the faith dating back to the Crusades, and as such is an ideal partner for the onetime angel in his quest for justice and revenge. Their hunt is about to take some sinister turns, however, leading the gargoyle and the knight to Clontarf Castle, where a major demon, an emissary of Satan, is preparing to make his reentrance into the world.
An acclaimed and much beloved fantasist best known for her popular Adept and Knights Templar series and her chronicles of the magical Deryni, Katherine Kurtz now displays another side of her extraordinary talent and succeeds magnificently. St. Patrick’s Gargoyle is a delightful feast of the imagination, rich in Celtic lore and religious arcana, and brimming with wit and heart, wonder and magic.
Young adults will best appreciate this light, sentimental fantasy about the gargoyles who watch over the churches of Dublin, whether Catholic, Protestant or deconsecrated, from bestselling veteran Kurtz (the Deryni series, etc.). More mature readers, on the other hand, may be put off by the simplistic story and the slack pace. The city's gargoyles meet monthly on a moonless night and, like good Irishmen, bemoan change and the loss of the good old days. When vandals break into St. Patrick's Church, Paddy, its resident gargoyle, calls on old Templeton, a Knight of Malta who drives an ancient Rolls Royce for weddings, to help him apprehend the miscreants. Paddy also brings to life the Rolls Royce's hood ornament, which Templeton tells him is a gryphon, not a gargoyle. Investigating the scene of the crime with his thirtyish policeman godson, Marcus Cassidy, Templeton finds Death's Deputy at the church, expecting his due. In a nice touch, Paddy argues with the deputy to allow the old man more time to discover who's behind the break-in. Heavy in its piety and exposition of Celtic history, this novel is a determined tourist guide to Dublin sites; however, James Joyce did some of the same thing, and Ulysses is still going strong.