Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Black Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon
Synopsis From Back Cover:
Skandranon Rashkae is everything a gryphon should be. With gleaming ebony feathers, majestic wingspan, keen magesight, and sharp intelligence, his is the fulfillment of all 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 the 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 fro whom the possible loss of this great bird will be more than just a major military defeat. Amberdrake - a Healer of body, mind, and spirit whose talents are 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 closet friend and comrade, and now he fears that this prince of gryphons will never return.
Once again when it comes time to review a fantasy book I'm resorting back to the publisher's synopsis. There is just so much going on in this book (and the series) that I'm afraid this review would be so long that everyone reading this would age ten years before they were done. The synopsis gives a pretty good idea of what happens in the book even though it doesn't even begin to tell you everything.
The only other plot point I wanted to quickly mention was what comes at the end. As you could probably guess, major wars between two powerful Adept Mages don't normally end well. This book is no exception, the cataclysm that occurs at the end of this book sets up the action not only for the next two book in the trilogy but for various books that take place over 2,300 years later.
What I love about this book, and most of her other books, are the characters. The author is adept at creating believable characters that as a reader, you are so drawn into them that you care about what happens. Your heart starts beating a little faster when they are in danger, you breathe a sigh of relief when they come out okay, and your heart breaks when something bad happens to them or someone they love. Skan and Drake (Skandranon and Amberdrake) are surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast.
What sets the author's ability apart though is how beautifully she creates non human characters and makes the reader forget that they don't look like us. While you are reading about them you forget that Skan, Aubri, and Zhaneel are gryphons, you forget that Gesten is a hertasi (think child size lizard men), you don't see them as anything but human even when their physical differences are as plain as could be. They aren't merely "talking animals" the way some fantasy authors tend to look at non human characters. They are intelligent, emotional, and complicated individuals who just happen to not look like the human characters.
She blends them all, human and non human alike, into a cohesive group of people that you almost have a vested interest in. You want them to survive the betrayals and losses that are to come. You want them to persevere when everything seems to be against them. But most of all, you want them to survive so you can get to know them even better.
This is a perfect example of what a true fantasy novel should be like and I would highly encourage everyone who has never read her work to start here.