Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Gargoyle Overhead

The Gargoyle Overhead
by Philippa Dowding
Recommended Ages: 10+

Katherine has a gargoyle living in her Toronto backyard. His name is Gargoth; he's over 400 years old; and although he tends to be grouchy and rude, he has a tender heart that yearns for the only other living gargoyle he knows: Ambergine, who was separated from him for 148 years and with whom he had only briefly reunited before they were separated again.

Katherine and her grown-up friend, Cassandra, are determined to help the gargoyles get back together. For example, Cassandra lets Gargoth set up a candle-lit beacon on the roof of her New Age knick-knack shop. As for Ambergine, she knows how to fly (unlike Gargoth) and uses that ability to search for him from the night sky. It seems like it should take no time for the two lonely hearts to find each other. But someone else is trying to find them, and he's Gargoth's worst enemy, the reason for half the years the gargoyles have been kept apart. Chillingly known as The Collector, he's always a step away from recapturing Gargoyle – and when Katherine, Cassandra and Ambergine mount a desperate rescue, that proves to be a trap as well.

For such a thin book (only 148 pages, including the "about the author" blurb) this story packs in a lot: Magic and wonder, suspense and action, hilarity and touching sorrow, and interspersed between present-day chapters, the moving story of Gargoth's long and often lonely life. He tells Katherine and Cassandra about his first friendship with a human, their adventures together, how he met Ambergine, and what brought them to the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris on the night he was first captured. He keeps to himself a few not altogether tragic chapters that followed, and it is Ambergine who relates Gargoth's first rescue from The Collector. Put it all together and you have an all but epic tale of a magical creature's long life, up to the present, and every page of it touches the reader's feelings in one way or another.

This is the second book in the "Lost Gargoyle" trilogy that kicked off Canadian author Philippa Dowding's career; the other installments are The Gargoyle in My Yard and The Gargoyle at the Gates. Dowding is also the author of Firefly, Oculum, the "Nightflyers Handbook" duology and the "Weird Stories Gone Wrong" sextet. While her other titles are more widely distributed, you may have to browse used booksellers to find reasonably priced copies of this trilogy. It's worth shopping around for.

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