'We are so often a disappointment to the parents who abandon us...' Ilario is born hermaphrodite, a true genetic chimera. Found abandoned on the steps of a chapel of the Green Christ, in one of the minor Iberian kingdoms, on a freezing snowy night, Ilario is fostered by Federico, an impoverished Iberian noble, who plans to gift Ilario to the king, hoping to gain favour at court. At the age of 15, Ilario joins King Roderigo as the King's Freak, but while learning the ways of the court, Illario has another lesson to study: abandonment and betrayal. For Rosamunda, Ilario's birth mother, has arrived - and the secret of Ilario's shameful birth must be kept hidden, lest the resulting scandal ruin Rosamunda's husband, Videric, the king's most powerful advisor. When Ilario is freed by the king, he/she is summoned by Rosamunda. And when her attempt to murder her child fails, Rosamunda whispers 'Run...' And Ilario does...across the Mediterranean, to Carthage.
Mary Gentle is one of the world's most acclaimed writers of fantasy and science fiction; ASH, the largest single fantasy work ever - longer even than THE LORD OF THE RINGS - combines the authentic details of Bernard Cornwell and the magical storytelling of Terry Goodkind; all editions were Gollancz bestsellers. Mary has a number of academic degrees, including an MA in War Studies, and has hands-on experience of sword-fighting and armour, amongst many other useful talents. She lives in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.