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Lent

Jo Walton's fantasy novel is a magical re-imagining of the man who remade 15th century Florence —in all its astonishing strangeness

Jo Walton

Young Girolamo's life is a series of miracles.

It's a miracle that he can see demons, plain as day, and that he can cast them out with the force of his will. It's a miracle that he's friends with Pico della Mirandola, the Count of Concordia. It's a miracle that when Girolamo visits the deathbed of Lorenzo "the Magnificent," the dying Medici is wreathed in celestial light, a surprise to everyone, Lorenzo included. It's a miracle that when Charles VIII of France invades northern Italy, Girolamo meets him in the field, and convinces him to not only spare Florence but also protect it. It's a miracle than whenever Girolamo preaches, crowds swoon. It's a miracle that, despite the Pope's determination to bring young Girolamo to heel, he's still on the loose … and, now, running Florence in all but name.

That's only the beginning. Because Girolamo Savanarola is not who — or what — he thinks he is. He will discover the truth about himself at the most startling possible time. And this will be only the beginning of his many lives.

Lent is a magical re-imagining of the man who remade 15th century Florence — in all its astonishing strangeness. (From Tor Books)

Jo Walton has published many novels, and won the Hugo Award in 2012 for best science-fiction novel. 

From the book

Have the Gates of Hell been opened? Shrieking demons are swarming all over the outside walls of the convent of Santa Lucia, everywhere the light of their lanterns reaches. It's unusual to find so many demons gathered in one place. They are grotesque and misshapen, like all the demons Brother Girolamo has ever seen. Stories abound about demons that can take beautiful human forms for the purposes of seduction and deceit, but if there is truth in them, God has never revealed it to him. He sees only the monstrous and misshapen. Some are almost human, others seem twisted out of animal forms. One, swinging from an unlit sconce beside the doorway, has an eagle's head in place of a phallus—both mouth and beak are open, emitting howls of mocking laughter. Others flaunt all-too-human genitals, of both genders. One, perched above the door, is pulling open the lips of its vagina with both hands. Hands, head, and vagina, are huge, while the legs, arms, and body are tiny. Taken together, the demons remind Girolamo of the gargoyles serving as waterspouts on Milan cathedral, except that those are the colour of innocent stone, while these are the colours of all-too-guilty flesh.

He glances at the two monks flanking him. There is an old pun on the word Dominicani where, instead of its true meaning, "follower of the rule of St Dominic," the word is split into two in Latin, "Dominicani," the hounds of God. Brother Silvestro, short and swarthy, the greying hair around his tonsure tightly curled, is like an old grizzled guard dog, and Brother Domenico, tall, broad shouldered, with the pink cheeks of youth, is like an overenthusiastic puppy. Brother Girolamo sometimes sees himself, with his long nose and his ability to sniff out demons, as a Pointer in God's service. "Anything?" he asks.

Brother Domenico frowns, holding his own lantern high. The swinging light and shadows ripple over demon wings, scales, and fur. "I think I can hear something—it sounds like distant laughter. It's very unsettling. I can see why the nuns might be disturbed." A demon with stub-wings and a snake's tail hanging from the eaves pulls open its beak with both hands and roars close by Domenico's head. His peaceful countenance remains unchanged. Another, scaled all over, nips at him with its dog's head. Girolamo makes an irritated gesture towards them, and they shrink away. Good, they still fear him.


From Lent by Jo Walton ©2019. Published by Tor Books.

Interviews with Jo Walton

Award-winning Montreal author Jo Walton talks about her historical fantasy thriller "Lent," set in Renaissance Italy in the time of the infamous Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, the main character in the book, who can actually see demons. 11:28

Other books by Jo Walton

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