Tag Archives: gryphons

The Cult of Unicorns (Penny White #2)

Title: The Cult of Unicorns

Author: Chrys Cymri

Series: Penny White #2

Penny is balancing a life equal parts fantastic and mundane. She has a gryphon and a snail shark in her house, and is a liaison to a parallel world of dragons and other mythical creatures, but she’s also a small-town vicar. And that means sermons, baptisms, weddings, and putting up with an enormous list of petty annoyances. But people have been turning up dead, and the wounds look like they could be from unicorns . . .

This is as crazy and as funny as the first book. Penny mostly deals with stubborn or completely clueless people in her role as vicar, which demands a lot of patience. I like how several characters challenge her on her habit of stretching the truth. In some cases she might be justified, but most of the time it’s just trying to avoid trouble, and even though she doesn’t agree with them I like seeing her called out on it. Penny tends to go for the solution that doesn’t ruffle feathers, when everyone would probably be better off if she instead offered a bit of truth.

And Morey has cemented himself as my favorite character. He’s blisteringly intelligent, but he’s also a gryphon. Which means his perspective on things like hunting is that of a predator. He and Penny have a much better relationship now, but they still snip at each other.

The wedding was also hysterical. I get a definite vibe of “details have been altered but story is true” from so many of these encounters.

I am not fond of the heavy use of alcohol, and how basically everyone (at least in Penny’s circle) tries to drink their problems away. Penny almost reads like a functional alcoholic.

Overall, though, this is a fun story that tackles urban fantasy from the direction of someone of faith. It stands out for the authenticity of the highs and lows of trying to live out that faith, and for the unusual approach. I rate this book Recommended.

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The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White #1)

Title: The Temptation of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Series: Penny White #1

Penny White is a vicar at a tiny little church in England. When she stumbles across a dragon that’s been hit by a car, she learns about a parallel world full of mythological creatures that touches our own. Penny is eager to learn all she can, but she still has a church to pastor, a possibly-murder mystery to investigate, and one man and one dragon competing for her attention . . .

This was sheer fun. Obviously written by someone intimately familiar with the various hazards and hardships of life in the ministry, Penny’s struggles as vicar were some of the funniest parts of the book. I really like that she has an active relationship with God. She’s not just someone who prays, but someone who sees answers to prayer.

As the notes rose and fell, I wondered whether God were giving me a message, or just having a good laugh at my expense. In my experience, it’s often difficult to distinguish between the two.

And of course, there’s plenty of fantasy, from dragons and unicorns to were-beasts and vampires. Also hysterical is that many of these intelligent beings have converted to various religions, and Penny mostly deals with members of the Christian church in the same location as hers but on the other side, which is a sister church. So when she’s not being awed by REAL LIVE DRAGONS she’s having theological debates with the cat-sized gryphon who took up residence in her home. Who is a stickler for a literal reading of the Bible, in contrast to her more liberal positions.

As I looked around the assorted faces – human, dragon, unicorn, vampire, and some for which I didn’t have names – I realised that the interview process had started. I was now going to have to mingle, answer the same questions time and again, and above all be friendly and approachable. It was time for Trial by Buffet.

I am entirely on Morey’s side about James, Penny’s brother, though. His behavior is appalling and Penny, in the name of charity, continues to enable him. Setting some rules or withholding some privileges when he misbehaves shouldn’t be such a problem. Frankly I think she’s not doing him any favors by allowing him to get away with everything.

Overall, this was just a ton of fun. I had a few theological quibbles, but the fact that this is an excellent fantasy starring Christians who are serious about their faith makes those a really minor point (and the arguments between Penny and Morey demonstrate that believers can be on the same team without agreeing on every little thing). And come on, there’s even a reference to Zoroastrians. I’m less fond of the love triangle angle, especially given that one of the love interests is a dragon (REALLY do not want to know how all these mixed-species “marriages” are going to work when some of them have vastly different physiology). But I’m really looking forward to the sequel. I rate this book Recommended.

Windsworn (Gryphon Riders #1)

Title: Windsworn

Author: Derek Alan Siddoway

Series: Gryphon Riders #1

Eva is the foster child of a blacksmith, but when a young boy delivers a gryphon egg to her, insisting that it’s for her, she ends up in the ranks of the Windsworn. Gryphon-riders, peacekeepers, practically legendary—and her gryphon is a rare red one, special even among the gryphons. Not many Windsworn are happy at Eva’s inclusion. She’s too old, untrained, and worst of all afraid of heights. Can she make a place for herself when she never wanted to be here at all?

More gryphons, please. I get why the story mostly focused on the more human elements, and it’s not like the gryphons have no role, but it feels like after Eva hatches the egg there’s only limited involvement with the gryphons, even though the red chick is basically living in her room. But I like the bits I do see. The gryphons are not just animals, although her chick being so young does mean he’s mostly acting like one for now. Despite the “destiny” that brought them together, Eva has a terrible relationship with her chick. She never wanted a gryphon, and hers is a lot of trouble. It isn’t until much later that she can approach this as more of a partnership, and one that requires both of them to contribute.

On the human side, it’s a bit hard to see Eva getting yelled at all the time. I’m curious that she doesn’t seem to have any actual friends from town, only her foster father and his golem, but those relationships are well-drawn. Wynn helps lighten up some of the darker spots in her new life, and I do appreciate that just because Eva had training as a blacksmith it doesn’t automatically make her great at swordsmanship.

I liked Ivan, too. The boy has a power no one understands, and although Eva thinks he’s more or less innocent, he’s certainly mixed up in enough strangeness that no one else trusts him. Hopefully future books highlight him even more.

All in all this was decent read. It’s hard to find books featuring gryphons, so this was something I jumped on when I saw it. I rate this book Recommended.

By the Silver Wind (The Summer King Chronicles #4)

Title: By the Silver Wind

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #4

The pieces are in place: Kjorn and Shard are uniting the various races against the wyrms, renewing old ties and forging new alliances. But Shard is uneasy. He wants to settle things peaceably, and Kjorn is fired up for war. Even though he knows war may be the ultimate answer, Shard continues to try dreaming with Rhydda, the old female wyrm. Meanwhile, in the Silver Isles, Sverin’s reign of terror has come to an end. But the pride is beginning to fracture as it waits for the return of its king . . .

This was a little slower than the other three books, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing. It would’ve felt way too rushed to simply have the alliances, but the slow task of running to various groups and convincing them was less interesting to me than a more action-packed plot. Mbari is amazing, though. I like all the lions, who are both mystical and playful.

It was also very interesting to see Sverin interact with his pride from a position of weakness, not power. He’s the last character I would’ve expected to actually learn something from all he went through, but he does, and he changes (and there’s a hint of a thing going on that I really didn’t expect, but frustratingly Sverin’s decision cuts a lot of things short, and I wish he hadn’t done that).

I also like how so many things come full circle here. Kjorn and the Dawn Spire. Shard and the Silver Isles. The missing piece of the puzzle that finally explains the presence of the wyrms, and why they hunt gryfons above all else.

Although I didn’t have quite as much fun with this as I did the earlier books, it’s still a good ending. This book finishes off the series very well, and although there’s a lot of room for more books in this world, the particular tale that started in Song of the Summer King does close here. I rate this book Recommended.

A Shard of Sun (The Summer King Chronicles #3)

Title: A Shard of Sun

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #3

With a newly-hatched dragon, Hikaru, under his protection, Shard must find a way not only to escape the wyrms but honor the promise he made to Hikaru’s mother. Meanwhile, Kjorn has flown all the way from the Silver Isles in search of Shard, but even though he finds traces of Shard everywhere, he can’t seem to locate the gryfon himself. And Kjorn, son of Sverin, son of Per, has the infamy of Per dogging him. Will Shard succeed in his quest to understand the history behind Per, the dragons, and the wyrms, and ultimately secure peace or victory? And what changes will Kjorn inadvertently bring to this new land?

First: Hikaru is absolutely adorable. He’s such a happy dragon, but Shard can’t help remembering that Hikaru’s lifespan will only be a single year. It’s a fascinating contrast. The dragons have a rich culture, but their short lives means the generations turn over incredibly fast, and Shard’s best sources of history are stories passed down a hundred generations, with all the complications that ensue from that much secondhand information. I also like the inversion of dragons as incredibly long-lived (well, the wyrms are, but these are dragons too). And Shard playing father is also very cute, as he tries desperately to be a good role model for Hikaru, who constantly surprises him.

I liked seeing Kjorn maturing too. He’s come a long way from the arrogant son who thoughtlessly took on many of his father’s more destructive beliefs and shipwrecked his friendship with Shard because of it. And he’s challenged in ways his size and strength can’t fix—winning trust, building alliances.

I also appreciate how even the most minor characters have their own lives, their own stories, and often, their own character arcs. The wolf that Shard saved from gryfons has grown up—and is struggling to be the kind of wolf that can win Catori’s heart. Or take Caj, who is torn between his wingbrother oath to Sverin and his love for his Vanir mate, and does everything he can to be honorable and faithful to both when they are completely at odds with each other.

All in all these continue to impress. The world has so much depth and detail, and I love the thread of redemption that breaks through evil. Because the ultimate goal is so much more complicated than simply killing a tyrant, of whatever kind. Real, true peace must break the cycle of violence—not ignoring the wrongs perpetrated but rising above them. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Skyfire (The Summer King Chronicles #2)

Title: Skyfire

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #2

Shard can’t afford to linger on the islands he’s known all his life. The Aesir came from over the sea, and knowing the reason for that long quest might provide the way for him to break through Sverin’s ever more despotic rule. But he also has the destiny of the Summer King to wrestle with. No one can tell him any more than the old song, a song known by many different species. If Shard is to be a king, how? If he is destined to unite the pride, how can he do it without perpetuating the cycle of war?

It’s a rare series whose second book is better than the first, but this is one of them. Shard’s tale interweaves with the story of those he left behind, and, surprisingly, neither one drags. Shard’s growing happiness contrasts against the growing misery of the rest, but both of them have incredible challenges that seem insurmountable.

I liked getting to know a new set of gryfons. Shard has a chance to see how a pride might look when it isn’t isolated and pushing hard for its own survival. There’s still dysfunction, but overall it’s a much healthier place. I particularly liked Asvander. He’s a little more than he appears, but it’s also true Shard’s own emotions cause him to misjudge him.

Also fun was seeing Shard interact with both eagles and lions. The various races all have their own flavor of legend, and although they seem to have an almost universal dislike of gryfons, there’s a lot of commonalities too.

Overall this continues to be an engaging fantasy with strong characters, hard choices, and plenty of surprises. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Song of the Summer King (The Summer King Chronicles #1)

Title: Song of the Summer King

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #1

Shard is a young gryfon eager to prove himself—for as one of the conquered Vanir, he has extra reasons to be cautious of his Aesir king, who hates the Vanir. Not that Shard remembers the Conquering, which happened when he was a kit. But Shard is soon drawn into a web of conflicting loyalties, and he will have to decide where his heart truly lies. . .

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and finally got around to it since the first book showed up free. I never did get over my dislike of how gryfon is spelled (despite this being one word that has about a dozen legitimate spellings), but the story was very good.

There aren’t any humans or human variants here. Shard is a gryfon, and the various other races he meets includes wolves, ravens, and so on. I liked that a lot, since it meant the story could focus on characters with wings and claws and fur and feather. It doesn’t overdescribe the gryfons or their way of life, but the details are plentiful and immersive.

I liked Caj, and how he wasn’t at all who I expected (or who Shard expected, come to that). I liked the different tribes of Vanir and Aesir, and how they value different approaches to life, and how Shard seems to be the only one able to see good in both sides, which makes him feel caught between choosing one path or the other. The Aesir did horrible things to the Vanir, true enough, but for all that Shard recognizes they aren’t necessarily evil. I liked that the tribes are also physically different, which leads to some interesting contrasts between Shard and his wingbrother.

And then the end had to go and tangle everything up. Not that it was a bad ending—but it changes everything for Shard, and who he thinks he is, and who he chooses to become. He’s just not there yet. The next books should be interesting indeed. I rate this book Recommended.