Skip to main content

Retro Friday Review: The Gryphon Trilogy by Andre Norton

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
I remember the day I first discovered science fiction grand dame Andre Norton. I walked into our favorite used bookstore in San Antonio, Texas. The same used bookstore where I first ran across so many other gems. This particular trip I was looking for something unusual and different and my eye caught on the cover on the left above. I liked how angular the art was and the look of the two companions traveling through what appeared to be an extremely bleak, almost sinister landscape. So I picked up The Crystal Gryphon and took it home with me. I was intrigued by the title as I had absolutely no idea what a gryphon was or if a crystal one was exceptional in any way. Shortly after returning home I blew back into the shop, hoping against hope they would have the two sequels it listed inside the cover. Lucky for me, they did. And they had learned by then not to be surprised by the neighborhood kid's urgent comings and goings. I'm pretty sure one of them was a Norton fan anyway.

Kerovan has been cursed since birth. On her way home, his mother was forced to take shelter in one of the ancient ruins of the Old Ones and, as a result, Kerovan was born with hooves instead of feet and eyes the color of molten amber. The heir to the Ulmsdale estate in High Hallack, Kerovan's life has never been his own and he spent much of it being tutored in private and shunned in public by his father's people who do not trust the eldritch young lord. At the same time, far away in the Dales, the young lady Joisan has been married by proxy since she was eight years old to a mysterious Lord Kerovan whom she has never met. Expected to grow up and take over the reins of running his household, Joisan's path takes a drastically different turn when an unidentified force invades High Hallack from the sea. With nothing but a small gryphon set in a crystal globe sent from her lord to wear around her neck, Joisan takes up the armor and weapons to defend her homeland. Kerovan is forced to travel to find Joisan and the two strangers must join together to defeat the dark magic that is invading their land.

In this case, I can tell you that the cover art on that first book is right on. I can't imagine a cover that would more effectively convey the marvelous blend of cold magic and unknown danger that fills this novel. I fell instantly under its spell and could not get enough of Kerovan and Joisan and the awkward way they had to get to know one another against a backdrop of war. They are both so tentative and independent and used to silence and walking hallways alone. The idea of the marriage by proxy fascinated me in a sort of morbid way. I felt so bad for Joisan, but bad for Kerovan as well as he was not used to people becoming accustomed to him and/or welcoming them to their homes. He cannot imagine Joisan would want him and, when she mistakes him for one of the Old Ones upon first meeting, he is sure of it. The story alternates between their points of view and by the time they actually meet for the first time the reader is filled with that delicious mouthful of more knowledge than the characters themselves have and a fierce urging to root for them. It was a pleasure watching them get to know one another and it was especially interesting as the world itself is such a well-developed major player in the novel. Things are by no means "resolved" by its end and I plowed through the next two with relish. A highly recommended trilogy, certainly for Norton fans, but also for those who enjoy their fantasy mixed with a hint of the weird and featuring a pair of strong main characters.
Reading Order: The Crystal Gryphon, Gryphon in Glory, and Gryphon's Eyrie (co-written with A.C. Crispin)

Comments

  1. I've never read anything by Andre Norton. I think I'm going to have to remedy that someday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Speaking of retro Friday, I haven't read anything by Andre Norton, but I've read Storms of Destiny by A.C. Crispin and I really liked it. It was published about five years ago and looked like it was supposed to be a series, but I haven't seen anything since...
    It's kind of like the books you mentioned, "fantasy mixed with a hint of weird" and heavily featuring a mythical/mysterious type of religion.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brenda, I definitely recommend her. You can probably start anywhere, but I have a soft spot for these three.

    Samantha, that's so interesting! I've never read anything else by Crispin. Sounds like I need to look her up. Thanks for the tip!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Bibliocrack Review | The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

 Hi. Hey. Hello there. It's been a . . . well, you know what it's been. We're all still living this together. So I will simply skip to the fact that I couldn't not review this book here. Because reading it was something special. I knew nothing about Ali Hazelwood 's debut novel except that it involved women in STEM and that the cover made me smile. I decided to set it aside for myself as a reward. Work has been . . . punishing . . . for the last year, and I have been so exhausted every hour of every day. And so I determined to buy The Love Hypothesis  on release day knowing nothing about it. But when I went to the bookstore to get my copy, none were available. In fact, none were available anywhere for love nor money, in store or online. At first I was moderately disappointed. Then I told myself maybe it's not that great after all and I didn't necessarily need to feel this preemptive sense of loss. But it kept gnawing at me. The loss. And so I paused work an

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, Review + Giveaway!

It seems a long time ago now that I first read Shiver -- the first book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. But looking back I started it on the plane ride to BEA and finished it there in the conference center, fingers gripping the cover tightly, while sitting on the floor in one of the many autograph lines. And now it's May again and BEA is right around the corner and I emerge from my recent and nasty reading slump stupor to find a copy of Linger sitting in my mailbox like a glove thrown down in the dirt. "I will be the one to pull you out," it whispers to me slyly. "Just open me up and take a sip. I promise--one sip is all it will take." And I look at it with fear and longing written all over my face. "You promise?" I ask  intently. "Because it's been a long walk in the cold and I'm not sure I can take another disappointment." "Just open me up," it says, confidence written all over its cover. And so I do. And everythin

The Colors of Madeleine Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway!

Today, I'm delighted to host a stop on the Colors of Madeleine Blog Tour, in support of Jaclyn Moriarty 's upcoming release A Corner of White . I read and loved Moriarty's Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments back in the day and have been eager to return to her work ever since. In this novel of parallel worlds, I think I may have found my reentry point. This tour celebrates the colorful aspects of the novel, with two stops representing each of several colors. Along with Jess over at Gone With the Words , I'm representing the color white. Hence, the giveaway here is a prize pack of white items as well as a copy of the book! Jaclyn Moriarty is also here today introducing the character: Belle Pettifields Belle Pettifields grew up in Cambridge , England .  She is fifteen.  Her best friend is Jack Cagnetti.   She and Jack are home-schooled with newcomer, Madeleine Tully.  She has reservations about Madeleine. Belle can be vague, sharp, gri