Title: The Griffin’s Flight
Author: K. J. Taylor
Arren has escaped with his life—more or less—and the man-eating griffin he named Skandar, but his troubles are far from over. Surviving out in the wild isn’t easy. Doubly so when he has to avoid all human contact for fear someone will recognize him as the murderer of Lord Rannagon. He has only one thought: get North, where a Northerner like himself might be able to blend in. But then he meets Skade, a woman who offers him hope that there might be a way to cure the half-life he’s living. If the both of them can survive long enough to find it.
I’m kind of on the fence about this one. The plot was generally more interesting than the first book, because Arren goes through ups as well as downs, victories as well as losses. There are certainly a number of twists, and places where things go from bad to worse, only to have a last-minute save. And I very much liked that Arren finds that death is not so easily cured, and that what he has in terms of a life is the best deal he’s going to get.
But. The characterization, mostly with Arren, felt all over the place. First he’s shaken about the murders he’s committed, and torn up about the people he has to kill to defend himself or escape. This meshes with the previous book. Then the story backs over itself and says no, he felt nothing. Then it backs up farther and says no, he enjoyed it. Look, I don’t really care which one it is, but be consistent, okay? If he felt bad about the first one, felt numb for the next couple, and then started to enjoy it, that’s okay too. Just don’t keep recasting the same murder with radically different emotions.
And it’s not just the murders. In the first book Arren is an honest man in a crooked world, but this book retcons him to have been as crooked as everyone around him—why? It’s almost a throwaway two paragraphs, and it’s not necessary to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing now, because now is more about survival.
And what was going on with that ending? Arren is playing at something, but despite being the main point of view character throughout, there’s no hint at what he intends, or why he’s gone and done what looks like another betrayal on Skandar again.
Or take Skandar’s magic. In the first book, the description clearly shows it is power in Skandar, coming from Skandar, that brings Arren back to his half-life. The fact that the second book wants to add some additional power doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that the way it’s done makes it seem like Skandar’s real power is something different and he had nothing to do with the resurrection. Fine, but then why was Skandar feeling the pull of magic in the Arena well before Arren actually died, then? And the way the magic is described back then is consistent with the way griffin magic is described in this book, too. Retconning this actually makes the first book make less sense.
Erian was another puzzle. It feels like the plot wants us to see things from his point of view, but then there are some huge gaps, especially near the end. Arren’s attack on Guard’s Post happens well before the end, but Erian apparently doesn’t hear about it, or at least we don’t get to see his reaction to it, which is strange given all the times we’re shown his vehemence around Arren when Arren is nowhere to be found. It feels like we should’ve had one scene, at least, where he gets the news, to show how his newfound home and position might be threatened by Arren’s presence, or how he might almost throw it away himself to go after Arren.
I mostly liked Skade, though I wish her introduction wasn’t a scene of her trying to kill herself. I liked her odd looks and sharp manner, and the way she, like Skandar, knows little of the human world. I like how she provides a counterpoint to Arren and Skandar and some new dimensions to the tension between them.
Overall, this is a very mixed bag. In some ways it improves on the first book, and in others it’s worse. But given the randomness of the characters, and the way some key things were revised to be other than what they were well set up to be in the first book, I can’t give this any more than a Neutral.