Song of the Gargoyle
Zilpha Snyder

Category: Children's, Fantasy
Morality: B
Writing: B+

This book tells the story of 13-year-old Tymmon, the son of the court jester of Austerneve, and his adventures after his father, Komus, is kidnapped by a mysterious knight in black armor. Tymmon, alone in the forest after fleeing from the only home he has ever known, befriends an enchanted gargoyle named Troff, and sets off to find and free his father.

The story is enjoyable, if not entirely unique. The setting is mediaeval, and although the places are fictional, the tale is obviously meant to take place in real mediaeval Europe (the characters are Roman Catholic, and there are brief references to Greece and Rome). Snyder’s writing style is enjoyable, although her dialogue can get somewhat stilted, and her story is fun. Troff, the only fantastic element of the story, is especially endearing — dog-like, with loads of personality and an ability to communicate with Tymmon.

Morally, the book is for the most part fine. It upholds traditional values such as courage, and also has a good family-values message — Tymmon begins resentful and angry at his father, but learns to appreciate him by the book’s end. The one thing that bothered me morally was the author’s attitude toward mediaeval institutions. As is so common in modern literature, she is seriously down on the institutions of state and even of church (although not as blatantly). All the knights are either evil or stupid (and usually strikingly hypocritical as well), and churchmen, although portrayed only briefly or second-hand, are usually not much better. Such an attitude toward the prominent leaders of the Age of Faith annoys me. Snyder doesn’t seem to be specifically picking on Christianity — the characters are all Catholics, and although their faith isn’t central to the book, she seems to respect them when they pray (which is mentioned quite a few times). Still, the anti-traditional mediaevalism annoyed me somewhat, although it probably isn’t particularly harmful.

Posted by Sasha | November 5, 2007

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