The Last Gargoyle

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Last Gargoyle Book Poster Image
Sweetness, monsters, gore in darkly appealing fantasy.

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Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A lot of local detail about Boston and its history -- some of it a bit embellished, as the author explains in an afterword, which also includes suggested resources and other places to learn more.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about family, friendship, loyalty, courage, doing your job well, and looking out for the people in your care.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Penhallow has an unswerving, self-sacrificing loyalty to his task of protecting his building's residents, showing courage and suffering injuries in the process. His newfound friend Viola offers support, help, and wise advice.


Narrative voice is light, but there's a lot of violence: the mysterious killing of Penhallow's two friends; the father of young girl Hetty has recently died. Killing, soul-snatching, and battle with dark forces loom large; Penhallow defeats evil beings by beating, maiming, and devouring them, and in one case throws up a half-digested monster to carry a message. Assorted undead beings everywhere; several scenes involve bones and cemeteries. In a scene that haunts Penhallow, evil beings get past him and carry off part of a baby's soul.


Some "butt" and poop humor.


A creepy scene involves a Ouija board.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some scenes take place in bars and taverns, past and present, but the characters aren't drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that author Paul Durham packs a lot of quirkiness -- and also gross-out humor and gore -- into The Last Gargoyle, the tale of a stone sculpture inhabited by a guardian spirit, who's definitely got his work cut out for him keeping dark forces from his building. There's a lot of heart (and humor) as  protective Penhallow, reeling from the sudden killing of his friends by evil beings, struggles to protect those in his care and makes a new, mysterious friend. There's also a lot of slashing, devouring, and battles to the death with monsters and evil spirits, which may be a bit much for younger kids; while the publisher recommends the book for ages 8 and up, we think it's a better fit for slightly older kids.

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What's the story?

In present-day Boston, Penhallow, a stone sculpture inhabited by a guardian spirit, becomes THE LAST GARGOYLE in town when his two friends are incinerated by an unknown monster. Penhallow has been keeping watch over an apartment building ever since his Maker put him there back in the 1800s, making sure no dark spirits and undead beings get near the humans he guards. But the Boneless King, the latest evil lord on the scene, is after a family in Penhallow's care, and may be a stronger opponent than he can defeat. Maybe Viola, the odd young girl with the violin case, can help?

Is it any good?

Paul Durham's darkly sweet tale of a stone sculpture tasked with keeping evil forces from the Boston apartment building he guards is quirky, engaging, and often gory. The devouring, slashing, dismemberment, and the like are often related with wry humor by narrator Penhallow, aka The Last Gargoyle, but may be a bit much for sensitive readers. There's a lot of appeal as the hero battles monsters, seeks to learn more of his own origins, strives to do his job well, and struggles with the possibility of friendship in a world where he's the only one of his kind.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gargoyles and how they're portrayed in The Last Gargoyle. Have you ever heard of them before? Are there any where you live? If you made one of your own, what would it look like?

  • Do you recognize some of the places and scenes in Boston that come up in the story? Would you like to go explore them? (There's a handy list at the end of the book.)

  • Do you know any kids who've lost a parent, like Hetty in The Last Gargoyle, whose father has died recently? How are they coping? Do you think there's anything you can do to make things easier for them?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

Themes & Topics

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