Thursday, September 23, 2010

Year of the Griffin

This sequel to The Dark Lord of Derkholm takes place eight years after the closing events of the first novel, and the protagonist here is the Wizard Derk's daughter Elda, who happens to be an enormous golden griffin.  After increasingly dire mishaps involving her growing magical abilities, she travels to the Wizards' University and enrolls as a student there.

In the years since the tourists stopped coming to their world (as told in the first book), wizardry has stagnated.  The teachers, so accustomed to teaching students what they would need to know to navigate the pitfalls of the tours, haven't changed the curriculum, and the students decide to do some outside learning when the coursework is unhelpful as emergencies arise - such as a bunch of assassins sent in to kill one of Elda's friends.  Elda and her fellow students might bring a breath of fresh air into the University - but powerful magic combined with inexperience leads to some unexpected - and very funny - results.

This was a delightful read from beginning to end, as usual with books by Diana Wynne Jones, one of my hands-down favorite authors.  There is a large cast of characters, but each one is so interesting and distinct that I never had any trouble telling them apart.  I suppose it would have been nice to get to know them a little better than we were able to, given that so much was going on at once, involving so many different characters - but one can always hope for future books set in this world.  There are always surprises in Jones's books, with leaps of imagination that are a joy to behold.  Lovers of magic school stories will be sure to enjoy this book, as well as fantasy lovers in general.  My library shelves this in the YA section, but I think it would definitely appeal to adult readers, too.

Year of the Griffin (sequel to The Dark Lord of Derkholm) by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, 2000)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
The Good, the Bad and the Bookish:  "As always the characters are finely drawn and engaging, the plot is twisty but intelligible, and the writing is threaded with humour and wit."
Someone's Read It Already"Overall, it’s as if Ms. Jones set out to hit a home run, and accidentally got a ground-rule double instead. Definitely good, definitely useful, definitely upping her batting average, but not quite a home run."
VioletReads"This book feels like a cross between the Harry Potter books and Terry Pratchett's Unseen University characters, and it is once again incredibly good-natured; you can't help but liking almost all the characters."


  1. I love the ways DWJ shows the long-term consequences of the tours. It's so neat! The end of Dark Lord of Derkholm is fairly optimistic, so it's cool to see what's been going on in the eight-year interim.

  2. Jenny - I agree. And also I liked that it made perfect sense that things would go in the direction that they've been going since the tours ended. I wish there were more "eight years later" books following some of my favorite novels - this was a lot of fun because of that.

  3. A spy in the house sounds like something I would like!

    Oh and I'm totally addicted to The Mistress of the Art of Death series - which is so funny because that is not a time period that I would normally like : )

  4. Oh I haven't heard of these before but it sounds interesting. The cover looks like something from around the early 90s maybe.

  5. VA Gal - I'm so glad to hear you love the Mistress of the Art of Death books! I was hoping you would. It's not the most romantic of time periods, but yeah, it really gets under your skin, doesn't it?! I do think you'd enjoy the Agency series, too. I'm hoping to get to the second one soon.

    Ladytink - You just can't go wrong with Diana Wynne Jones!


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