The desert winds have come to the village of Minas Ford. Griffins, creatures of fire, have appeared in a burning haze - searing the sky a blinding white and scorching the earth to parched, barren sand. These majestic beasts, half-lion, half-eagle, spread the arid desert wherever they roam. Iaor, the King of Feierabiand, will not tolerate the destruction of his people's farmland. He means to drive the griffins from his domain - whether by negotiation or brute force. But not all those who encounter the griffins fear them. Kes, a timid village girl, is summoned to heal the King of the Griffins himself. She will discover her affinity with these creatures, and come to realise that the menace they flee is even more deadly than the blazing fires of the desert.
The Griffin Mage Trilogy is the omnibus edition of the first three novels by Rachel Neumeier: Lord of the Changing Winds, Land of the Burning Sands and Law of the Broken Earth.
Since I read the omnibus edition I will review the 3 books separately.
On to book one…
Lord of the Changing Wind
In Lord of the Changing Wind, the main protagonist Kes is introduced as an herbalist healer. While gathering herbs Kes spots several griffins flying over and an encounter occurs between the last surviving griffin mage Kairaithin and Kes where she is more or less forced to heal the King of the Griffins. From this point onwards Kes is bound to the griffins and feels obliged to help them. However, in the past, the appearance of griffin has been an ominous sign and a war is about to happen between the two provinces of Feierabiand and Casmantium.
The world where Lord of the Changing Wind takes place is divided in three provinces: Casmantium, Linularinum and Feierabiand. Each of these provinces have their own “special” magic. The magic portrayed in the Griffin Mage is not bold and flashy but subtle. The people of Casmantium are famed for the crafting and building, Linularinum features excellent scholars and the people of Feierabiand have affinity to specific animals and can call upon them to obey them. These three abilities are magically enhanced. Next to these abilities there are also mages present throughout the story, the mages are classified as earth (the humans) or fire (the griffins). The earth mages show a strong antipathy towards the fire mages and vice versa. The use of magic is not overly used but just enough to keep it interesting and unexpected.
It really is noticeable that Neumeier has put a lot of effort in detailing the storyline of Lord of the Changing Wind. There are not that many characters involved but they are well thought out and have really separate personalities. You can really see the struggles that Kes undergoes as the book comes to end, as she feel obliged to aid both the humans and the griffins.
The griffins are associated with fire and it is noticeable in their detailed and vivid description. Wherever they move they spread fire and create desert wasteland. However mythical they might be though, their names were just too much and I found them unpronounceable. I know that they are mythical creatures and you cannot call them “Jim” or “Bob” but the names where just too unpronounceable i.e. Kiibale Esterire Airekelui or Eskainaine Escaile Sehaiku.
When I started reading Lord of the Changing Wind it was hard to get into and I actually wanted to put it down for some time. Neumeier’s writing struck me as quite annoying and it was not easy from me to dig into it, it really took a great effort to continue reading. After about a quarter of the book I was getting used to her way of storytelling and the reading experience improved. Although the plot line is pretty straight forward and simple, Lord of the Changing Wind proved, in the end, to be a lively, rich and imaginative story.
On to book two…
Land of the Burning Sands
Where Kes played a major part in Lord of the Changing Wind she is almost completely absent in Land of the Burning Sands. Instead Gereint, a maker from Melenster, a town in Casmantium, is the main point of focus. I found this a bit astonishing since the cover of the book only mentioned Kes. I was actually hoping to read about her again in the follow-up book as she somehow left a mark of interest for me.
At the end of the first book, after the battle between the Feierabiands and the Casmantiums, a sort of truce was made and the griffins were given a place where they could settle down and not disturb the humans. In the Griffin Mage trilogy the griffins are associated with the element fire and where ever they travel they spread fire and create a desert area uninhabitable for men. This fact was used perfectly for the beginning of the storyline in The Land of the Burning Sands, where Gereint and gaes - slave/maker - is forced to flee Melenster due to the presence of the griffins. Geraint's efforts as he travels away from Melenster and the events that occur around him gave an unexpected storyline. As in Lord of the Changing Wind there are not that many characters followed throughout the book, rather it is focused around a number of five or six. The limitation in characters did not limit the world and events, they were well developed and detailed enough.
After finishing the first book of the trilogy I was well adjusted to the writing style of The Griffin Mage and found that The Land of the Burning Sands read pretty fluently and was a much, much better than the first book. There were still scenes where there was more information than necessary. These were often found when the author was describing new areas and they sometimes went on. Although those scenes were vivid and imaginative, their overly detailed nature had an adverse effect on me and made my mind wonder away from the book. I do hope that this detailed finds a perfect balance in the last book.
In the last few chapters there was one scene that really stuck in my mind. There is as a faceoff between the Casmantiums and the griffins which showed perfect story telling capabilities. The scene depicted a battle between mages of both sides and was narrated with a perfect balance of detailed and fast paced action. It gave me the feeling of having a ticket in the front row and I do hope to encounter more of those scenes since they offered as nice interlude to the whole story.
In Lord of the Changing Winds the Feierabiands were allied with the griffins to stop the invading Casmantiums and I thought that the Feierabiands and the griffins were the good guys and the Casmantiums were the bad guys. However, in the Land of the Burning Sands, my perspective changed and I actually felt sorry for the Casmantiums. My opinion of the griffins changed also from good guys to selfish/arrogant creatures - I do not know how it will continue in the last book but I think there will be enough possibilities to further enrich the story of the Griffin Mage.
There was no direct follow-up on the storyline left open in Lord of the Changing Wind, the Land of Burning Sands picked up on a direct consequences of the events that happened in the first book (but I did kept waiting for Kes to appear). Although her brief appearance was interesting I do hope she does appears in the last book. Land of the Burning Sands was for me way better than the first book. Neumeier kept up her lively descriptions and whereas the first book was more or less storytelling without action, Land of the Burning Sands had more promising scenes in it that glued you to the page. Land of the Burning Sands read way way better than Lord of the Changing Wing as the plotline, which for me became evident only after 2/3rd of the book, was interesting and something that I would not have expected - this was again better than the first book.
And so finally, on to book 3…
The Law of the Broken Earth
In Law of the Broken Earth again a new main character is assigned. This time we follow Mienthe, who is a cousin to Lord Bertaud, a cohort to the king of Feierabiand. In Land of the Burning Sands the griffins were exiled and “locked” up in an area north of Casmantium, Law of the Broken Earth begins with an prologue and then forwards to 6 years later, where again a peril begins to unfold that will unleash the griffins once again from their exile.
Before I started with Law of the Broken Earth I had a feeling that this part would focus on the province of Linularinum. In the first book the focus was on Feierabiand and in the second on Casmantium. It is probably this change in scene that made Neumeier change lead characters each time. Although it is somewhat unique in trilogies I found it did not work for me. In each book there is a new lead character which is well developed and you see them grow and struggle as the storyline progresses (this is a really good thing about all three books), but at the end this character building does not follow-up and leaves me with questions about what happened with them. It all end too abruptly.
In the other two books the affinity magic of the Feierabiands and the building/making magic of the Casmantiums were highlighted. In Law of the Broken Earth the legislist magic of the Linularinums is highlighted and was something that I did not expect, it was very craftily put together. Neumeier's way of incorporating magic into her story was done most subtly and cleverly and felt most refreshing.
Where I said that in the other two books the descriptions, mainly the details, were sometimes too much, in Law of the Broken Earth I could hardly find this excessiveness in describing events. This book was the best written yet. I must say that I did anticipate more from the final book in a trilogy and that there would frictions between nations and the griffins that would lead to an epic ending. I was surprised by the plot line in that I did expect more. A line on the cover of the books states “Her fire will tear the earth apart”. I thought this was in reference to Kes but I did not see anything of this except that it is somewhere mentioned that she became a powerful fire mage….
All in all The Griffin Mage Trilogy is an enjoyable series which displays, once you get into it, a good storyline. I’m happy that I did continue reading, although I did have the feeling that it just took me too much effort to get into it (counting pages till the book ends is not a good sign). Neumeier uses in her descriptions of scenes, characters and events that occur enough detail (sometimes too much) to really make the scenes come to life and give you a front row seat. The best book of this series was the second book which balanced deep and vivid story telling with enough suspense to keep you glued to the pages. The Griffin Mage Trilogy is recommended to anyone who enjoys a fantasy story that focuses on vivid storytelling with more emphasis on interaction instead of bold fighting.
Review by Jasper de Joode
1 positive reader review(s) for The Griffin Mage Trilogy
Dane from Ericksen
Wow, just finished the last book in the Griffin Mage trilogy. Outstanding read. This would be a perfect new project for Peter Jackson: One movie for each book of the Griffin Mage trilogy.
8.3/10 from 2 reviews