September 8, 2023

Review: Gryphon in Light

Gryphon in Light Gryphon in Light by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first time I have returned to the Valdemar series after a several years' hiatus. In counting up the number of volumes, I see we are nearly at 40. Most of those are trilogies set in various time periods; this particular one is about 10 years after the events of the Mage Storms, which pretty much upended the world. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it does mean (at least to me) that the worldbuilding is getting a little unwieldy and top-heavy.

This story centers on Kelvren, a gryphon who undergoes a radical transformation that basically turns him into a living magical Node, overflowing (and dangerously so) with magical energy. A big part of the plot is the attempt to stabilize Kelvren and keep him from blowing up not only himself but everyone around him. This is the most interesting part of the story to me--the minutiae of the author's approach to magic, and the rules she has set up. (I think an engineer would like this story, as the Adept Firesong ends up engineering an entirely new thing in the Valdemaran world to solve Kelvren's problem.)

But due to the politics of Valdemar and the surrounding countries, as well as a civil war that Kelvren tamps down due to his newfound magical ability, he has to be whisked out sight for a while. As a result, Kelvren, Firesong and an assortment of mages and intelligent animal races of Valdemar (which is also one of the more interesting parts of the story--said animal races have been genetically engineered with magic) undertake an expedition to Lake Evendim, where the gods of the neighboring country Iftel have identified a threat left over from the Mage Storms. This threat is expanding through all the magical planes and will affect the gods themselves if not stopped.

A lot of this story is identifying the problem/discussing the problem/implementing a solution, all in meticulous detail. As a result, the expedition itself doesn't get started till about two-thirds of the way through the book. This didn't really drag though, at least for me, because the characters and character interactions are interesting enough to keep one's attention. But anyone expecting a fast pace and big magical battles is bound to be disappointed. Also, because this is the first book in (yet another) trilogy, it ends on an irritating cliffhanger in the middle of a scene. This ending is downright clumsy, so if you don't like that sort of thing you might want to hold off till the rest of the series comes out.

Also, this book is not a good place to start on the series as a whole. There is a three paragraph Prologue that attempts to bring the reader up to speed, but it is woefully inadequate. The series is really getting to the point that it needs a Dramatis Personae and Timeline list before you even start. For me, the characters and writing is engaging enough to more or less overcome this problem, but it is something to consider.

Still, it was good to come home to Valdemar once again, and one must admire the skill of the author(s) in writing such a long-running series.

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