In the land of Cymria, humans and griffins rule side by side.
To be a griffiner — the human companion and ambassador to a griffin — is to have both status and dangerous responsibility. Arren Cardockson is a despised Northener, a people conquered and enslaved centuries ago. By freak chance, Arren became a griffiner, but many resent and fear his existence. When his griffin dies during an attempt to catch a wild griffin, Arren′s life spirals out of control.
Meanwhile, chained in a cage behind the fighting Arena where rogue griffins entertain the crowds, the mysterious black griffin dreams of escape. When Arren is sent to the Arena, his meeting with the renegade griffin sets his life on an inexorable path of murder, conflict — and an encounter with his past.
Darkness cannot be caged.
Going into this book I was expecting a traditional ‘farm-boy-to-hero’ story. A few chapters in I realised that The Dark Griffin isn’t what I expected at all. Arren’s dark story of betrayal and retribution realistically documents easily how quickly society turns on those who are different. Arren becomes a victim of a set up, designed to disgrace him and strip him of his power. At the first signs of trouble his neighbours and work mates condemn him and he very quickly loses the things he once took for granted such as his job and other people’s trust and respect.
Arren is heavily victimised and I wondered for some time why he didn’t fight back, until I remembered that he is only nineteen and has led a privileged life until he was set up. The author does a wonderful job of bringing Arren’s fear, anger and sense of helplessness to life, and I found him to be an interesting character to read. Once his own friends and lover desert him Arren is forced to look for other ways out of his situation and ends up relying on the enigmatic black griffin Darkheart.
The griffins are a large part of the world Taylor has created, but the origins of their pairings with humans are unclear. In many ways this aspect of the story reminded me of Eragon. The griffins are fiercely loyal to their companions but the humans do not have control over them and they retain their fearsome nature. Since the novel alternates in view-point between Arren and Darkheart, it is easy to sympathise with the griffin as well, especially when his hunting of humans is phrased as an act of self-preservation. I did feel, however, that Darkheart had a very ‘human’ voice still – to again compare with Eragon, Sapphira had an alien voice when chapters were narrated from her view-point.
The novel is focussed on the alienation of Arren and Darkheart from all they hold dear, and as such prevents us from exploring any relationships they cultivate. Darkheart loses his family at a very young age and Arren quickly becomes an outcast in his birthplace. Thus I feel the supporting characters fall flat, and although I can see some of them sticking around for the rest of the series, I hope they become more dimensional.
The Dark Griffin is a wonderful read that took me completely by surprise. I think any fan of fantasy is missing out if they haven’t tried the series out yet – and I for one will be reading the next two books in the series soon. I was also sent the first book of the sequel trilogy, The Shadow’s Heir, for review, so I will be reading that as well!
About the book:
- Date published: 01 August 2009
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers AU (HarperVoyager)
- Format: Paperback, 528 pages
- ISBN 13: 9780732288525 ISBN 10: 0732288525
- Categories: Fantasy
- Goodreads / Booktopia (AU)
- Challenge: Australian Women Writer’s Reading Challenge 2012
- My review of The Griffin’s Flight (The Fallen Moon II)