Desert Isle Keeper
George and the Virgin
George and the Virgin was exactly what I needed to read last weekend. It was fun. It was funny. It had only the teeniest, tiniest, most negligible bit of angst – just enough for character development. It has the honor of being the only book I’ve read for review this year where I did not count the pages. The story flew, and the pages almost turned themselves. This may just be my favorite romance of 2002.
St. George the Dragonslayer is a professional wrestler whose trademark piece of acrobatics, the Slayer, has gotten him nothing but bad media publicity. A couple of kids tried it at home and got hurt, and now the media is making George out to be a Bad Guy. He begins doubting whether he’s in the right field and gets depressed. When his sister suggests self-hypnosis as a way of confronting his conflicting feelings about this situation, George hesitantly agrees. But when he opens his eyes, he’s no longer in his own custom-made castle, but in the Middle Ages. And the woman staring across a crystal at him wants him to slay a dragon. A real dragon.
Alizon the Virgin is dragon bait. Or at least she was twelve years ago. At fourteen she fell victim to lottery held by the village of Markesew, and was chosen as the virgin to be sacrificed to the dragon so that the village would be left unmolested for another year. Since then Alizon has been living a secret life on her dragon-infested island. She’s saved the subsequent yearly virgin sacrifices from their gruesome fates, and now she has a community of virgins – all of them weavers – whose fate she is in charge of. Alizon believes herself happy, she’s thwarted the village, and she gets no small satisfaction out of the fact that she and her virgins are living and slowly growing rich off the yearly sheep tithe the village pays to the dragon. But Alizon is lonely too, and worried about getting old and shriveled without ever having experienced passion.
When George stumbles upon Alizon’s castle, claiming to be St. George and proclaiming that he will rid her of the dragon, she deliberately frustrates his efforts. Why would she want the dragon to die when the death of the dragon would mean the death of her carefully crafted life? And yet there’s something about George that she can’t resist. He kills her with kindness. He assaults her with affection. How can she help but fall in love with him?
Can I just say that I loved George? He was delightful. Goofy and playful, yet endearingly introspective. He didn’t take himself too seriously, and he had amazingly little ego for a professional performer. If Rachel Gibson wrote beta heroes, they would be like George. Pretty much everything about him was appealing, from his affectionate treatment of his family (and especially his little niece) to his quirky observations on the warped condition of his own psyche.
Since for at least the first half of the book George thinks that his adventure is just a mental exercise, there’s plenty of opportunity to wonder what all this (the dragon, the virgins, the lack of toilet paper) means in terms of his own psychology. This leads to some very funny observations. In addition to the humor, the original nature of the story moves the book along. All sorts of questions exist. What exactly is the dragon? Why is it there? Can it be killed? How did Alizon survive it? How can you put a book like this down when all those questions are still out there unanswered? You can’t.
The book’s light, adventurous plot doesn’t allow for much secondary character definition, but Alizon and George, of course, are well done. Alizon has some interesting flaws that make her imperfect, but her character is also very understandable given what she’s been through. She isn’t as lovable as George, but it’s easy to see what George sees in her. Cach also does some nice juggling of internal and external plot conflict, which leads to an interesting resolution to the problem of the dragon.
This is not a serious medieval time travel book. Alizon’s middle ages are pretty undefined and there’s not even an exact date given for when this is all happening. Markesew and its castle make a light and somewhat fantastical setting, and some of the more pressing problems George should face in his adventure – such as the language barrier – are tossed aside without much explanation. But none of this was particularly bothersome. The book is light fantasy and meant to be enjoyed as such.
George and the Virgin is a fast, fun, feel-good read. It made me feel happy, and I finished it with a lump in my throat. I wished it could have gone on longer, that we could have seen more of the charming George and his lovely Alizon. Cach has gotten some very good reviews from us in the past, and now I can see why. This is not one to miss. I’m off to explore her backlist!