The Lord of the Changing Winds (Griffin Mage) by Rachel Neumeier
|The Lord of the Changing Winds (Griffin Mage) by Rachel Neumeier
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: A great title to launch this trilogy, with a fantasy that ranges from the subtle and personal to the meaty.
|Date: June 2010
When a delegation of diplomat, mage and soldiers enter the mountainous, rural areas to the east of the country to investigate - and remove the cause of - rumours of a host of griffins laying waste, the last thing they expect to meet is one of their own kin, a shy teenager at that, helping the beasts out and magically healing them. But then Kes, the young woman in question, never expected to be there herself. She would never have assumed she had any powers, but when a mysterious man enters her village to whisk her away and teach her to tend the battle-wounded fabulous creatures, she finds herself entering an unspeakably strange world.
One of the better and brighter things about this fantasy is that such a reduction of the plot might lead you to assume this is about a young woman finding the destiny laid out to her, but at no times does this book read like that. The events in her storyline are of a strong fantasy bent, but there is no legendary character for her to be fated to become, even considering the so rarefied position she finds herself.
Another aspect I found highly commendable is the intimate feel to things. This is helped by the telepathic communication the griffins use with Kes, and the subtle, under-dramatised way our man of mystery makes her enter her new role. This is clearly a major thing - humans helping these beasts - half-eagle, half-lion, fully carnivorous if not completely evil - but nothing is laboured by our writer into being too much of a big, dramatic event.
Rachel Neumeier does seemingly attempt to scupper herself at times. The griffins have three long names each, that look Finnish to me, and this does not help us keep track of all of them, however vivid the colour and characters of them all are. One of the neighbouring, relevant countries to this land has a completely unpronouncable name, that would trip up the narrator of this as an audiobook for sure. There are certain small - small, note - twinges of her entering encyclopedia mode, where what seem to be irrelevancies about other towns we're never yet to visit, and trade routes, are mentioned, and her style does allow for several repetitions of phrases far too often for anyone's good, but on the whole however the negative aspects can be dismissed as very minor.
What cannot be ignored is the overarching satisfaction this story provides. Kes is a finely-wrought female - a shy sister to a farmer at the outset, overwhelmed by the majestic griffins seen flying over her hillside herb-picking, and never to suspect she would know them physically and psychically. Her world sometimes dips into generic fantasy land, where all the taverns are quaint and friendly, much of the magic is held by unknown bearers, and all the hills have to be climbed, but there is a lot more going on here. For me the world is fully realised, as in the arid desert the griffins leave behind them, caused by their innate interaction with the elements. The magic has some strong new variables, along classical elemental lines too - such as our man's world-bending shifts in geography, whereby he can practically transport himself anywhere.
And from the nuances of Kes with her griffins to the broader interaction with the beasts by others, I was kept entertained and caught. The ending is both more than adequate and one to lick the lips for the rest of the trilogy this will become. But before then this is a fantasy novel of strong depth and a welcome assuredness, and one that is definitely worth recommending to genre fans as something bright and fresh.
I must thank Orbit's kind people for my review copy.
We at the Bookbag enjoyed The Folding Knife by K J Parker among recent fantasy titles.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Lord of the Changing Winds (Griffin Mage) by Rachel Neumeier at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Lord of the Changing Winds (Griffin Mage) by Rachel Neumeier at Amazon.com.
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