Title: The Dark Griffin
Author: K. J. Taylor
The black griffin had nothing, not even a name, when he was cast out on his own. Against all the odds, he survived, grew, thrived. But his territory bordered that of the humans, and humans disliked the wild griffins.
Arren had everything, especially considering he was a Northman, a people best known for being slaves. But he had a griffin, Eluna, and that meant the opportunity to be more than any Northman ever was. Even if he couldn’t get any respect thanks to his heritage.
But when their paths cross, both the griffin and the man will lose everything. As Arren’s life spirals farther out of control, he becomes consumed by only one thought: revenge.
Perhaps the cover gives too much away. I enjoyed this a lot, but given that the cover shows Arren flying with a griffin that obviously isn’t Eluna, it manages to spoil something that doesn’t happen until almost the end of the book. That being said, it was still a good fantasy novel for the first bit. I liked the black griffin’s side better than Arren’s side, but the human perspective is needed to show off the city, its griffiners, the prejudices against Northmen, and set up some of the political dynamics that ruin Arren’s life.
Then there was a twist near the end which automatically raised my interest in the sequel quite a bit. And I’m really hoping Arren doesn’t find a way out of it. For one, that seems a kind of hard thing to recover from, so what he’s already got is way better than the alternative. For another, I suspect it will raise his battle potential tremendously and allow for some awesome fight scenes to come.
In that respect, most of this book is setup for what happens near the end, which presumably is the launching point for the rest of the series. Arren’s life goes steadily downhill, punctuated only briefly by the love of his friends. Although it’s a good insight into how relentless abuse can twist up even a nice man into a monster, it was a little hard to read because I wanted Arren to get justice sooner.
I fully expect both sets of offspring—man and griffin—will have a large role to play in the future (and I have a pretty good idea who the female is that talked the black griffin into having her), but I do hope it’s more than just a more personalized set of enemies to set against the two.
This is a darker book. I liked how the themes of prejudice were explored, showing that even someone who isn’t originally inclined to violence, like Arren (though he may have more of that heredity than he expects) can get pushed off the edge with enough pressure, thus in a way confirming his own stereotype. And how someone outside, like Flell, has such a terrible grasp on the whole situation, even though she’s seeing a lot of the same things he is, but not seeing the same significance behind them. But on the flip side, the whole Arren-being-humiliated thing just kept happening—I certainly wasn’t expecting most of the book to be about that. The overall story could have been stronger if he’d gotten together with the black griffin sooner.
I also liked how the griffins were handled. They can do magic, which appears to be related to the color of the griffin, and I hope future books showcase more powers. And they’re not just griffin-shaped-people, but actual creatures, with their own set of instincts and behaviors that can sometimes cause a lot of problems when living with a species that they might otherwise consider prey. Eluna and the smuggler, for example, is perfect. A nice, sweet griffin with much affection for Arren not only kills a man but outright starts eating him.
I felt like the plot fell apart a little towards the end, when everything got crazy (really, Arren? I was expecting him to get framed, not for him to actually do something that stupid). But all in all I enjoyed it. It feels a bit like an origin story so far, setting up Arren and the black griffin for presumably a much greater future conflict. Oh, and don’t read the jacket description for the second book until you’ve read the first book or you’ll spoil one of the best parts. I rate this book Recommended.