The White Gryphon
Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon
The Mage Wars: Book 3
When I was a teen, reading every one of Misty Lackey’s books I could get out of the library, I was super excited to read this one. The Silver Gryphon looked like a grand adventure. It’s set in the jungle! Aw man!
Then I was crushed. I found it a slog. I wasn’t interested. Dismayed, I set it aside and went back to Vanyel’s and Talia’s books.
Now, roughly a decade later, upon the reread, I became thoroughly hooked. I’m pretty good with bedtime, I try not to read at night, but I stayed up four hours later than usual to finish this book.
So, why the discrepancy?
I think it has to do with expectation. This first time I read this, I wanted something else than its actual plot. This time, I knew what to expect, so I sat down, enjoyed the ride, and got a lot more out of it because I wasn’t resisting the plot. Amberdrake’s daughter, Silverblade, and Skan’s son, Tadrith, have joined the ‘police force’, the Silver Gryphons. They’re posted out in the jungle, to watch the border, but as they are journeying they crash land in the jungle, break a limb each, and have to survive—while fleeing from mysterious hunters.
The story I wanted as a teen was what happens when they get to the outpost? What is being a border guard like in this world? What conflicts arise when they’re out on their own? But this time around, I’m not interested in that entirely different book.
This time, I’m intrigued by the troubles, the descriptions of the rainforest, the mysterious hunters, Tad and Blade’s resourcefulness. It was very believable, suspenseful and really, a good solid survival tale.
Unfortunately, character motivations and growth felt a bit more forced and unnecessary. At the beginning, Blade and Tad don’t want to be copies of their famous parents, they can’t connect to their parenths, and their parents are quite overprotective, being war vets. Very good. But the resolution, indeed the entire climax, was rushed to the point that I never felt there was any resolution. And more sadly still, there was no dénouement. I really appreciate a long, leisurely dénouement that gives the reader an opportunity to see the results of the actions of the book. I feel cheated if I don’t get it… which is annoyingly often. Misty is usually really good about dénouement though (I especially love the dénouement in her non-Valdemar The Black Swan). But The Silver Gryphon basically had its resolution right after the climax and then boom. Fini.
And that’s what I have to say about this one. I enjoyed it a lot. The interpersonal relationships could have been explored a lot better, but it’s a good adventure story, and I love the villains.
What did I think of the Mage Wars series as a whole?
I don’t think it’s the strongest set of Valdemar books. That being said, the world-building is exceptionally interesting, and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the locations. Urtho’s Camp was vibrant, as was the Haighlei city, but White Gryphon was the most interesting locale of all: a city shaped like a gryphon carved into a cliff. Gorgeous. These books describe a delightfully alien world, and better yet, we are so intimately connected to our POV characters (namely Amberdrake and Skan) that the strangeness never alienates us as readers. We are introduced carefully to the world and made comfortable. These books also take risks: Skan and Drake are not standard fantasy main characters. Skan isn’t human and the details in his sections enhance this, and Drake is, basically, a therapist. The focus on nonhuman races is compellingly different. The Haighlei Empire introduces a new flavour of culture to Velgarth, which is populated by cultures that are primarily a mix of European and Native American influences. I think The Black Gryphon makes the most use of Drake and Skan’s characters, and tells the most original story, but for sheer suspense, The Silver Gryphon can’t be beat. I wouldn’t go out of my to recommend these books to non-Valdemar fans, but these are still an enjoyable light fare.