The Silver Gryphon, by Mercedes Lackey

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Publication date – February 29, 1996

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) A dozen years of peace have passed in the city of White Gryphon – providing well deserved and much needed security for the people who had lost their homes in the magical Cataclysm which killed the Mage Urtho, creator of the gryphons. But the inhabitants of White Gryphon have not forgotten their long struggles, and have trained an elite guard force, the Silver Gryphons, to protect their city, and if necessary, to join with the army of the Black Kings for mutual defense.

Thoughts: (Why does it seem to be a common trend on GoodReads regarding Valdemar novels, to have a description of synopsis of the book that has little or nothing to do with the actual plot of the novel? The above is certainly true, but is something you get handed to you in two chapters, and the rest of the book contains a story that really only has to do with two members of the Silver Gryphons and next to nothing to do with the Black Kings.)

This conclusion to the “Gryphons” trilogy takes a different tack than the first two, focusing not on Skandranon and Amberdrake but on their children. The original heroes of the trilogy are getting older, and it’s time for the torch to be passed, so to speak. Blade and Tadrith are trained as Silver Gryphons, the guards and military of the city of White Gryphon. Desperate to get out of the city and out from under the shadows of their respective parents, they are thrilled to have their first solo mission be one to a remote outpost.

That is, until the magic getting them there fails and strands the pair in an unknown section of the rainforest, injured and with no way to contact the city. And to make matters worse, they’re being stalked by an unknown hunter with cunning intelligence.

It was interesting to see the next generation of heroes here. Not heroes on as grand a scale as their parents, perhaps, but still heroic and worthy of praise in their own right. As far as coming-of-age stories go in fantasy universes, this one’s up there with the more realistic ones, having the characters gain independance and prove their worth not by saving the world or discovering immense latent power, but in getting stuck in a lousy position and having to survive it, to grow and mature, and make the best of what they have. Considering I’m talking about a gryphon and an empath/fighter, the realism of the situation is fairly laudable.

However, in this book we run across another example of the author not paying enough attention to her own world. The wyrsa — creatures that are described as what you’d get if you mated a greyhound and a snake and they grew it to the size of a small horse — are described pretty much exactly as they were in the Last Herald-Mage books. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that it was stated that the wyrsa here are different from the standard breed, larger and a different colour, mutated by the mage storms that altered so much of the world a little over a decade ago. It’s quite a stretch of the imagination to think that this mutant breed took over for the original wyrsa, or that all wyrsa were warped thus so that they’d appear as they did in books set a few centuries down the line. It was an interesting attempt to explain the creatures, though really, no explanation was necessary. They were mentioned once or twice in another book, and no more was really needed. Trying to come up with their origin myth ultimately didn’t pan out as I’m cure the author intended.

(And yes, I do actually retain this much information on the Valdemar timeline and world. Got to have my hobbies!)

Another complaint is that the tension of Blade and Tadrith’s situation was broken up by having viewpoints from Amberdrake and Skan back in White Gryphon. While I admit that scenes involving them were essential (otherwise, it would have seemed to the reader that they just showed up out of nowhere to find and defend their missing offspring, and it would have weakened the developed independence of the two protagonists), but the scenes could have been far shorter, and without as much hand-wringing. Showing concerned parents is one thing, but showing Winterhart, Amberdrake, Skandranon, and Zhaneel all essentially have the same conversations with each other about how worried they are is going a little over the top, and feels like nothing so much as padding in a place where it wasn’t needed. I know Lackey’s known for repetition in character conversations, and providing lots of dialogue and viewpoints, but here it just got old pretty quickly, and I wanted to just skip ahead and get back to the characters who were in danger and much more interesting to read about.

While this book is the closer to a trilogy, it’s far from essential to the timeline and to the understanding of the Valdemar/Velgarth books as a whole. It could be easily skipped without missing much. That being said, though, I don’t recommend skipping it at all. It was still a good story, with good pacing and excellent character development, and even if it wasn’t a vital book in the series, it was still an enjoyable read. It had its issues, but still, I think, was worth the time to sit down with.