A 2008 historical/fantasy/romance novel by Andrew Davidson about a porn actor/drug addict burn victim who meets an eccentric artist who claims to know him from another life—several, actually—and spins him endless yarns of their lives together as he slowly recovers. Eventually, she takes him back to her home, where she works obsessively on her art, endlessly carving grotesques out of stone for days and weeks on end, as she believes it to be her mission. Soon, it's not clear who is caring for whom. Is Marianne Engel just harmlessly loony, or perhaps dangerously unhinged, or is there something real within her stories? Relies heavily on Classical Mythology, all sorts of issues of Heaven and Hell, as well as ample Fun with Foreign Languages as she tells The Narrator stories from throughout the ages.Compare to: American Gods, Divine Comedy. Not to be confused with Gargoyles the series.
Bittersweet Ending: Marianne Engel, claiming that her hearts are all gone, commits suicide by walking into the ocean. The Narrator, while heartbroken, carries on with his physical therapy, and takes up sculpture to remind himself of their love.
Driven to Suicide: The Narrator fantasizes about a ridiculously elaborate suicide whilst in the hospital
Drugs Are Bad: In a way—they cause The Narrator's car crash, but he eventually considers that to have been a good thing, and when he detoxes from the morphine, he goes on an epic journey of self-discovery through Hell. So, not entirely bad...
But they're certainly bad in the case of The Narrator's adoptive "parents," who eventually die in a meth lab explosion and are seen in Hell
Florence Nightingale Effect: Played with. In the hospital, Marianne Engel doesn't do anything directly medical for The Narrator, she just provides him with friendship and distraction. Later, at her home, though, she does care for her. Played straight in the 13-century storyline.
Framing Device: The book is written like a memoir of The Narrator and Marianne Engel's relationship and the circumstances that drew them together.
Hollywood Atheist: Avoided. The Narrator states early on that he doesn't believe in God, and while he certainly becomes more interested in theology and even goes to Hell, sort of, he doesn't change his mind.
And his reasons for not believing in God aren't anything as simple as Evil Stole My Faith or his traumatic childhood.
Karma: Subverted—The Narrator's injuries sure seem like poetic justice, especially losing his penis when he was practically a sex addict, but he states that since he's an atheist, he doesn't believe God or anything else was out to get him, his accident was just chance.
Meaningful Rename: Einarr and Frišleifr rename their child after Siguršr, after he dies saving them
Mercy Kill: A few times: Francesco asks his brother to do this when he's dying of the plague and his wife has already died, and he does, with an arrow to the heart. This is then echoed when Marianne kills her husband this way when he's been slowly tortured to death by Kuonrat
Mission from God: Marianne Engel believes that she has been told to give away her thousands of hearts, and so she "frees" gargoyles from their stone and gives them hearts
No Fourth Wall: The Narrator regularly refers to "this story" and "this book" and addresses the reader directly, often acknowledging things that seem unbelievable or speculating about the reader's reaction to certain things.
No Name Given: We are never told the narrator's name, not even when Marianne Engel carves it into her chest with a chisel
Shown Their Work: Davidson clearly did a shit-ton of research about burns and burn treatment.
Someone to Remember Him By: In the 13th-century story—subverted, kind of, because the baby dies, or is 'taken' from her by God somehow
Switching P.O.V.: The modern-day story is told by the unnamed burned man; the other stories are told by Marianne Engel, in the second person when she's telling him what she believes to be their story from another time. The "bitchsnake" (i.e., the evil part of the narrator's mind) also pops in with commentary now and again.
The Pornomancer: The Narrator is this before his accident, rather literally
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Narrator's planned suicide is decidedly over-the-top, and his death in the 13th century: beaten, shot at, nailed to a wall and slowly burned alive is also rather elaborate and agonizing, leading to Marianne's Mercy Kill
To Hell and Back: Literally...well, sort of. He's detoxing from morphine and debates internally about whether he's hallucinating, but then eventually decides not. The experience is highly meaningful, anyway.
Unreliable Narrator: The burned man believes Marianne Engel to be this for a while, but...it's debatable
Funny thing was he WASN'T racist. Considering just how much the Narrator knows about Japan, it implies he's very interested in the Japanese culture. He just wanted to piss her off and thought that was the best way. (It wasn't.)