December 27, 2010

Review: The Dark Griffin by K.J. Taylor

The Dark Griffin
Author: K.J. Taylor
Publisher: ACE
Series: The Fallen Moon, Book 1
ISBN: 0441019781
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Novel provided by the author via GoodReads.

For more information please visit K.J. Taylor's website.

Being chosen as a griffin's companion has allowed Arren Cardockson to gain a place of status within the land of Cymria. But Arren can never escape the prejudice that comes with his Northerner slave origins. For chained within the Arena where rogue griffins battle to entertain the crowds, there lies another soul crying out to be freed-a kindred spirit that will allow Arren to fulfill his destiny and release the darkness in his heart.


The Dark Griffin is the first novel in The Fallen Moon Trilogy by K.J. Taylor focusing on the life of Arren and a black griffin. Fantastical and filled with emotion, this novel was a great start to what has the promise to be a thrilling series.

The world building within the novel was first rate. Honestly, I normally don't like fantasy simply because the settings and creatures are too hard to relate too. Authors tend to take liberties with creating world-specific languages that the reader has to learn, not something that I overly enjoy. When I read I like to be able to relate to the writing without having to think what some unpronounceable word is suppose to mean. Taylor's writing of a fantastical world that reveres Griffins is not such a novel. Instead, this is very relatable and easy to read. The language is straight forward yet the atmosphere of the world is well maintained. In truth, I really loved the settings of the novel. Taylor was able to capture something that was reminiscent of medieval times, but the language gave it a feeling of being more modern. But, more over it was the atmosphere created within these settings that truly set this novel apart. The novel is on that is ruled by emotions and those emotions play such a large part in dictating the settings. For instance, at the beginning of the novel there is a warmth surrounding Arren and his small, meager home. While not well furnished or very posh, there is a light there that is comfortable and cozy. When we return to his home later after his trials at Rivermeet, his home is no longer so pleasant. Instead, the dwelling is cold and dark covered in dirt and cobwebs. Light can no longer penetrate the darkness that lurks within to warm it. It is empty, no longer a home but a refuge from the outside world.

The characterization within the novel is also quite enjoyable. We begin the novel following a griffin and her chicks focusing on their struggle for survival and a mother's devotion to her offspring. Soon, the mother is killed by humans and the single surviving chick is left alone to try and survive on his own. We then follow the chick, or rather the black griffin, who is wonderfully personified. I loved reading his passages immensely! While he doesn't know many words which often makes communication with the few humans and griffins that he comes into contact with difficult, his thoughts and actions make him endearing to the reader. Arren is likewise relatable, but with him there is so much pain, torment and utter despair. Both are characters that the reader can sympathize with and you get drawn into. Also, both are given a rich back story which allows us to see them before the 'fall'. This insight only makes them more human as the novel progresses.

This is definitely not a light story. The subject matter is dark, violent and often brutal focusing on slavery, social class, and about the loss of self-identity. The mirroring of these plots between black griffin's story line and Arren's is wonderfully done, tying the two together in an unlikely bond. There was a lot in this novel that often had me grinding my teeth, the foremost being Arren's supposed friends. While they accept Arren and try to be loyal to him, their ease at believing him to be dangerous and insane is aggravating. True, after the death of his griffin Eluna he is in pain and enraged by the betrayal of an official he considered to be a friend, but no one believes his story about how was charged to go to Rivermeet. Ultimately, he is left more and more isolated as time goes on, ostracized, abused and mocked until finally his dignity is stripped away as well by the slave collar that is forced upon him. Likewise the dark griffin is subjected to this same demoralizing treatment until the situation finally comes to a head.

The only thing that I didn't like about the story was the pacing. It was more 'slow and steady' until finally picking up at the end, the weighty issues proving to slow the story. However, while these dark matters may have left the tale a bit slow to wade through, it definitely set the scene for later books. The action in fact does pick up towards the end when Arren and Skandar finally accept themselves and their positions in the world. It leaves such an opening for the next novel and I look forward to seeing what these two exiles go on to do. The promise of them together is just too great to ignore!

In the end, I found this novel to be wonderfully written and while bleak, I enjoyed reading it. There is a lot of potential for the following novels and I looked forward to seeing Arren and Skandar's bond be further explored. Definitely a good read for anyone who enjoys fantastical worlds and mythological creatures!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Some graphic violence

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