Eight years after the end of Mr. Chesney's offworld Pilgrim Parties, as seen in "Dark Lord of Derkholm", Wizards University is in a shambles. Wizard Derk's griffin daughter Elda and her fellow first-year students encounter tyrannical tutors, boring lectures, and terrible rectory food. But things get even worse when the University sends a letter to each of their families begging for funds. (from BookDepository.com)
It hasn’t been that long since I read The Dark Lord of Derkholm (just a few months, in fact), but by the time I read The Year of the Griffin I’d nearly forgotten who was who. Derk has got a LOT OF KIDS, okay, and it’s hard keeping them straight sometimes!
It didn’t help that Griffin focuses on a different set of characters than Dark Lord did; Blade and Kit and almost the whole of his family are off on an entirely different continent having adventures (although they do show up later on), so we’re left with Elda and her new university friends. All I remember about Elda from the first book is that she’s impetuous.
Griffin is a wonderful books, though! Sure, I missed Blade and the rest. But what was left (slowly) grew on me until I loved Elda just as much as I loved her siblings, AND there’s the bonus feature of a lot of university-related sarcasm from DWJ herself.1
I suppose this is the most “Harry Potter”-ish of all Diana’s books. It’s actually set in a wizard school, for example, and there are kids who turn into heroes with the help of both magic and self-reliance and whatnot. But there aren’t any chosen ones, just enthusiastic students who love magic and who want to do nifty things with it. There aren’t really any Voldemorts, either, just stuffy professors whose heads are so far up their rears they aren’t ever getting out again. Also, a bad griffin. Oh, and some assassins and mean parents and other stuff like that. (But no Voldemort.)
The best thing about Year of the Griffin is how each individual character gets their own little spotlight, and how they get to grow just a little bit as people (and as characters). The entire freshman class is full of interesting characters– there’s a prince and a rebel dwarf and a griffin of course, and a runaway pirate’s daughter and a thief and LOTS more. And they all tragic pasts and/or have problems that need fixing!2
Alright, maybe it’s a little too much to be believable, but in a book filled with fantasy creatures and ninjas and so on it’s pretty easy to get over stuff like that. Plus, it’s frickin’ cool, okay?
The ending is another Shakespeare-y one: everyone gets married and/or paired up and/or WANTS to be paired up. I thought I’d be annoyed, but mostly I was just charmed. That’s what usually happens with me and Diana Wynne Jones– something that’s annoy me in another author’s book just makes me giddy with happiness in her’s. I think it must be the writing style.
So! In conclusion, though I missed the characters from the first book I very much loved the ones in the sequel, and though there’s no Big Bad there are plenty of little ones to get through (not least trying to succeed in a school that has a rule no-one shall get an A3 until MAYBE the third year). All-in-all, an excellent sequel to an excellent book.
Read: May 19, 2013
- her husband is/was a university professor, btw! I wonder if that had anything to do with it. Bwahahaha. ↩
- Also, most of them made appearances in the first book– but I don’t remember them so that was less effective than it might have been otherwise. ↩
- which I just realized would probably be called something different in England (even a fantasy England?) so I think my copy has been Americanized WHAT how dare they ↩