Title: The Black Gryphon
Author: Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon
Series: The Mage Wars #1, Valdemar #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy, Mages, Magic, Medieval fantasy
Dates read: 18th – 25th May 2020
Publisher: DAW Fantasy
5th sentence, 74th page: Cinnabar, of course, was as elegant as if she had just come from holding court, her scarlet gown cut to mid-calf, showing scarlet leather boots and slender ankles, her sleeves cut tight, displaying her graceful arms without an unseemly show of flesh.
SKANDRANON RASKAE IS EVERYTHING A GRYPHON SHOULD BE…
with gleaming ebony feathers, majestic wingspan, keen magesight, and sharp intelligence, he is the fulfillment of all that the Mage of Silence, the human sorcerer called urtho, intended to achieve when he created these magical beings to be his champions, the defenders of his realm – a verdant plain long coveted by the evil mage Ma’ar.
And now, as Ma’ar is once again preparing to advance on Urtho’s Keep, this time with a huge force spearheaded by magical constructs of his own, Skandranon is sent to spy across enemy lines, cloaked in the protection of Urtho’s powerful Spell of Silence.
As days pass and Skandranon doesn’t return, all in Urtho’s camp wait anxiously. but there is one among them for whom the possible loss of this great bird will be more than just a major military defeat. Amberdrake – a Healer of boyd, mind, and spirit whose talents are as essential to the army as those of any general – waits on the landing strip with anguish in his heart. For Amberdrake has come to value the vain, cocksure, and brave Skandranon as his closest friend and comrade, and he now fears that this prince of gryphons will never return…
It’s been a little while since I picked up a Valdemar book. Mostly because as much as I love them, they are often pretty heart wrenching. There is always some kind of abuse or emotional turmoil that just doesn’t seem to be as prominent in many of the other fantasy books that I read. So I honestly need to make sure that I’m in a good headspace whenever I pick up one of these novels… which I was when I picked up The Black Gryphon. And boy am I glad. It was enjoyable, fun and an absolutely great read. Even if there was still that signature Lackey tragedy that made the enjoyment a little less… joyful.
Writing this review, it is actually really difficult to pinpoint those aspects of this story that I really enjoyed. It took me a few chapters to really get sunk into the storyline. I think mostly because in the other Valdemar books that I’ve read so far, the characters are somehow known. Mostly they know each other. But even in The Last Herald Mage, the lead character has been mentioned again and again and again throughout the later books in the series. That’s not really the case for this. Not only are there totally new characters and events that I can’t remember being mentioned in the later books (that I read earlier). But there are also whole new species, gryphons and the such and different groups of people who have totally different names. It took quite a bit to get used to.
After I started to get connected to the characters however, I realised what a great series this is. Or at least, what a great novel to start off a series. Skan might not be human, but I think he is one of my favourite characters in this series. He is strong and sarcastic. Plus, I absolutely adored the constant inner dialogue whenever he’s doing something kind of stupid. Even if that stupid has the best of intentions…
Although this isn’t really like any of the other Valdemar books, I can see how the characters and groups of species / people act as the precursors to the rest of the books. You can see a hint here and there of the collegium and the healers and the different schools of learning throughout the books that I’ve already read. And I’m honestly looking forward to understanding more of this as the series unfolds. That and finding out more about Skan, Winterheart and all of the other wonderful characters.
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