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

Interview with Alexandra Bracken + Brightly Woven Giveaway!

I fell in love with the cover of Alexandra Bracken's debut novel--Brightly Woven--last fall and the scant synopses I could find at the time certainly piqued my interest. After managing to get my hands on an ARC, I found myself surprised and pleased with this unique fantasy. You can read my review here. As the release date approached, I invited Alex to participate in an interview and giveaway here on the site and, despite her crazy busy schedule, she kindly accepted. Enjoy! First things first: When did the idea for Brightly Wovenfirst hit you and what (if anything) did you know right off the bat? I remember the exact moment it hit me—what I was doing, who I was talking to, what song was playing on iTunes.  :)  I had just come back from Winter Break my sophomore year in college and was sitting on my bed chatting with my mom.  Sophomore year was pretty remarkable in terms of the insane weather that we had in Virginia (where I was in school) but it had also been a bizarre year in Arizon…

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me Your Recs

Guys. We are going on a trip―a trip we have been planning for years. And it is finally happening next week! We're going to visit my parents in France, and we are taking the whole gang. Or rather, all three kids but not the dog. Who I am desperately sad about leaving and really hope he doesn't think we've up and given him to another family and proceed to forget all about us. It's just two weeks. But we've never left him that long before, and I am obviously emotional about it. Have I posted pics of Sodapop here before? I'm not sure that I ever have. Here he is on the day we got him: And here he is now in his natural habitat, which is to say in my library on laundry day: Ahem. 
The actual point of this post is to get your reading recs for the trip! I'm completely torn over which physical books to take with me. Yes, I realize most of my reading will be done on my Kindle by necessity, but I always have to have some physical copies with me. For both safety and I…

Blog Tour Giveaway | An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

Today marks the release of An Artless Demise―the seventh installment in Anna Lee Huber's excellent Lady Darby mystery series. I'm happy to be participating in the blog tour with a giveaway courtesy of Berkley. This is a series I've enjoyed from the very beginning (you can read my review of the first book here). Be sure that Kiera and Gage are well worth your time, particularly if you are a fan of Deanna Raybourn or Tasha Alexander.

ABOUT THE BOOK Kiera’s return to London is anything but mundane after fleeing in infamy more than two years ago. While Kiera expected the whispers and murmurs inspired by her reappearance, she wasn’t prepared to receive a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge the secrets of her past and implicating her in crimes she didn’t commit. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of killing people from the streets and selling the bodies to medical schools, and Kiera is a perfect suspect for their crimes―after all, she was previously married…