Why did I get it: I’ve been intrigued by the trilogies of griffin fiction that have been coming out lately, so I figured I’d give this one a try.
How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars.
In the land of Cymria, humans and griffins rule side by side … Arren Cardockson is a despised Northener, a people conquered and enslaved centuries ago. By freak chance, he became a griffiner — chosen by a griffin as their companion — but many resent and fear his existence. Meanwhile, chained in a cage behind the fighting Arena where rogue griffins entertain the crowds, the mysterious black griffin dreams of escape. Arren’s meeting with this renegade griffin sets his life on an inexorable path of murder, conflict … and an encounter with his past.
Review: I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book like this. I mean, I’m sure I’ve read books with some of the same or similar ideas going on to a lesser extent, but there’s still a lot going on here that was different in really good ways. The writing was flawless, the pacing was perfect, and the world-building was so vivid that I am already reading the second book, The Griffin’s Flight. I’m keeping the third book, The Griffin’s War, close at hand as well.
I am a big fan of animal-human friendships* so this book already had that going for it, but there’s just so much going on in this book and all of it is executed superbly. The griffins and the humans are so complex by themselves and together, which was also really cool. As with most books that I enjoy and give 5 stars to, The Dark Griffin is full of touching and amusing moments, but there’s also a lot of dark, messed-up things going on that all added up to a very, very promising series opener.
I really appreciated the work Taylor put into fleshing these fictional people and their world out. Arren especially stands out not only by virtue of being a main character, but by being both endearing and so overwhelmed by misfortune. I really felt for him and had to keep from grinding my teeth down to a fine powder as I waited for him to get some freakin’ justice. Similarly, the dark griffin remains compelling and likeable in a different way because he has no idea what he’s doing despite being intelligent and yearning to be more than he is. I especially love that he knows he doesn’t want to be alone and that there’s also a gray area in terms of what he wanted from humans. And even though it’s a bit creepy, I love that he ultimately decides he’s found whatever he was looking for in Arren. There’s so much going on here from both Arren’s point of view and that of the dark griffin. They are so different and alike that I could not wait to see them spend time together and develop a somewhat messed-up partnership/friendship. I definitely cannot wait to see where their new bond takes them in the next two books!
Over all, the griffins probably add the most dimension to this book, but nothing in regards to the less fascinating humans –even the aspects of it that caused nail-biting or teeth-gnashing– really struck me as unnecessary or without a purpose. Arren has to start somewhere and I really think he’s off on a fascinating journey. I love that he’s had to become all but a monster, but that he’s still less monstrous than the person/people who set him up. What also helps is that, as I said earlier, the pacing is great. There’s nothing like reading a book where things continue to happen and where I don’t have to wait until book 4 for the main character to do what needs to be done. And although there is a lot of suspense in terms of what the heck will happen to poor Arren, there’s no end to action from the hunt for the griffin to the Arena where humans and griffins battle one another.
In conclusion, this book was entertaining, refreshing, engaging, and awesome! I highly suggest picking up a copy of The Dark Griffin particularly if you’re a George R. R. Martin fan OR if you’re in need of some epic fantasy with some unique elements or griffins.
And I pity the fool who is not in need of a griffin.
* Even dysfunctional and somewhat messy ones, although I’m not so fond of sparkly ponies and their magical riders as I used to be.