Diana Wynne Jones – Year of the Griffin
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult(ish. It’s not specifically YA-focused, but it’s not obviously NOT YA either.)
Started: 30 June 2011
Finished: 02 July 2011
Where did it come from? BookMooch.
Why do I have it? I was excited when I found out there was a sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm, which I really enjoyed, and even more excited when I found out it was a boarding school book.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 22 January 2011.
A school that teaches
magic should be better at
dealing with trouble.
Summary: It’s the start of a new term, and the Wizards’ University is in trouble. The University doesn’t even have the money to repair the roof, and its faculty aren’t particularly gifted: the head of the university, Wizard Corkoran, is obsessed with being the first man to reach the moon, which doesn’t leave him a lot of time for teaching, and the Wizard Wermacht, who teaches most of the classes, is strict, harsh, and uninterested in magical theory or any dissenting opinions. However, when Corkoran writes to the families of his first-year students asking for money, the University is about to have even bigger problems. Because of his six students, one is a griffin, one is a dwarf, one is a pirate’s daughter, one is the Emperor’s half-sister, one is a Prince, and one is the Emir’s brother – and except for Elda, the griffin, none of their families know they’re even at the University. Now the six of them will have to deal with assassins, curses, soldiers, a pack of renegade griffins, pillaging pirates… all on top of their schoolwork!
Review: Reading Year of the Griffin reinforced in my mind the reasons why I can’t listen to Diana Wynne Jones’s books in audio: they’re packed with so much stuff that if your attention wanders, even for a little bit, you’re likely to miss something, and in audio where you can’t as easily flip back a few pages, I tend to get thoroughly lost. Even reading Year of the Griffin in print, I still had to put in some effort keeping all of the pieces straight.
The result of all of this packed-in stuff (by which I mean: lots of characters, lots of POVs, lots of action and relationship and plot threads and backgrounds and motivations, and then maybe some more characters thrown in for good measure) is a story that’s fast-paced, funny, and thoroughly charming, but which always seemed to keep me at arm’s length. I think the sheer volume of characters kept me from getting overly attached to any one of them. Even Elda, who is the nominal main character, didn’t entirely win me over; she seemed not to have grown up much in the eight years since Dark Lord of Derkholm, and to me she read as way too childish to be attending university. As a result, while this book was without question very charming, and a good, fun read, I didn’t find it particularly affecting, nor did I connect with it on anything more than a superficial level.
Still: It’s a boarding school book! It gets some bonus points for that. And even books that aren’t particularly deep are still worth their while, particularly when I’m in the mood for a good ol’ lighthearted and fast-moving novel. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Year of the Griffin is technically a sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm, but the plots aren’t particularly interconnected, and I think it could stand on its own just fine. Recommended for fantasy fans of all ages who are in the mood for something light and charming.
First Line: Nothing was going right with the Wizards’ University.
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