4 out of 4 stars
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The Gryphon by Paula Grover is a fantasy novel for young adults. Princess Sunsky, a young and rambunctious gryphon, is approaching the time of her coronation when a freak storm blows her life completely off-course. Flying about recklessly after a leisurely mating with her lover Prince Dreamspinner, she is caught up in a sudden storm and finds herself stranded with a broken wing. Far from home and help, she is nurtured back to health by the winged stallion Nightsky. At first terrified of the telepathic equine creature, an omen of evil in Gryphonic culture, she comes to love and respect Nightsky as he tenderly cares for her. Upon her return home, she is blindsided with the news that not only is she pregnant with Dreamspinner's pureblood opinicus son, but she is also carrying two eggs. One is the wingless keythong son of Dreamspinner, the other is a female hippogryph, the offspring of Nightsky. Princess Sunsky is now faced with the choice of discarding her daughter in order to conform to Gryphonic society and become queen or to become an outcast and raise her offspring alone. Her youthful dilemma paves the way for a lifetime of adventure and a multi-generation revolution against tyranny.
This is a solidly written novel. The characters are defined and memorable. They do strike me as stereotypical, but a great deal of the novel is focused on class archetype discussions. The character names, however, are a handful. Skystar, Sun Quest, Mountain Rain, Cloudhopper, Sun Wing, Moon Wing, Heartsong, Thundercloud, etc. It gets very muddled by the end with four generations of the gryphon, opinicus, keythong, kryphon, hippogryph, and equine descendants. The author does a good job in the dialogue of referring to each by relation, such as Father Sun Quest, to help keep the connections clear. I found it to be overwhelming, but for younger readers, reading at a slower pace, it might not be.
The plot and resolution are basic. The story follows familiar fantasy themes. The text is a thinly veiled discussion of a variety of social issues. The author tackles many young adult relevant concerns such as classicism, privilege, racism, sexuality, bullying, social ostracism, and morality. I feel this novel is meant for the closer to adult end of the spectrum in YA reading materials. Concerned parents should review the text to be sure it fits their child's maturity level. Here is a quote from the first chapter that shows an example of why I recommend this:
"Her heart is lighter as Dreamspinner's seed enters her body."
What I enjoyed most about the novel was the consistency of the writing. The flow of the story rarely bogs down. The text itself is almost completely free of grammatical errors. What I enjoyed least about the book were the character names. The abundance and similarity were overwhelming. I can recommend this novel for the mature YA audience and as an interesting light read for adult fantasy fans. I do not recommend it for younger children or fantasy fans looking for an immersive read.
Overall, I found The Gryphon to be a well-written novel and give it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I would have preferred more inventiveness in the story's resolution, but the consistency of the writing and the professional editing was impressive. I also enjoyed the depth of thought that went into the creation of the Gryphonic culture. Fantasy lovers should have no problem finding some aspect of this novel to be enjoyable.
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