January 19, 2012 by Heidi
Author: Rachel Neumeier [Website]
Standing: Book 1 in The Griffin Mage trilogy.
Published: May 1st, 2010 by Orbit
Format: Paperback; 367 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Kes is a young woman with a talent for healing, destined to become an herb woman of a small village in Feierabiand, until the day that the griffins arrive to make a dessert north of Minas Ford. A man appears in the village, a man whom Kes knows instantly is no man at all, seeking a healer for his people and asking Kes’s help. She agrees to do what she can, not understanding the consequences of her actions or her own power. Bertaud, Lord of the Delta, and friend/advisor to the King of Feierabiand is dispatched to investigate the griffin’s arrival. Seeking to negotiate a peace agreement or force the griffins to disperse, Bertaud feels an immediate affinity for the desert, discovering his own odd attachment the the beings therein.
I was attracted to this book instantly, primarily because of my love for another series featuring gryphon mages, the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey. It is only the second time that I have seen griffins featured as main characters, and I was excited to see how the treatment of them compared. While Lackey seemed to emphasize the similarities between her human and gryphon characters, Neumeier’s griffins reflected the opposite with their distinct un-humanness. These griffins are creatures of fire, their shadows flicker, they bleed garnets and cry carnelians. This isn’t a book that is compelling because of the characters themselves, but one where you become invested in the overall story. The characters involved are in no way shallow, but they can be difficult to identify with because of their lack of humanity. In this way, the lack of identification makes the story intriguing as something you desperately want to understand but know you never will.
The world that Neumeier builds for her griffins is so beautiful, and presented in such a well-paced manner that this book will grab you instantly, and hold you, without any of those “here’s the oh-so-dull history of this land” moments that seem to pop up regularly in high fantasy. I adored the magic presented through her earth and fire mages, and more so I loved the concept of having an affinity for a particular creature. My only complaint was one that I often have with high fantasy novels, and that is the naming scheme. The country names were obscenely long and difficult to wrap the tongue around, as were the names of the griffins themselves. The griffin names didn’t bother me so much as there was good reason for them to be as long as they were, but it did make it difficult to keep them strait–thank goodness for physical descriptions or I would never have properly identified any griffins other than those most closely involved with Kes and Bertaud.
I have to say, after finishing A Dance With Dragons, Lord of the Changing Winds seemed like a happy-go-lucky hugfest of high fantasy. It wasn’t, of course, it was in itself a very politically driven novel, but with level-headed characters who aren’t quite so submerged in subterfuge and bloodlust. In fact, it messed with my head a bit. The rulers in Lord of the Changing Winds genuinely care about their people, and make decisions based on what most benefits them, rather than what most benefits the ruler themselves. The good sense was a bit baffling after 1000 pages of Mr. Martin, and I enjoyed it quite thoroughly (though in no way am I disparaging the sheer awesomeness of A Song of Ice and Fire).
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: I was lucky enough to get the second installment from a givaway over at The Book Smugglers, so I’ll certainly be reading it soonish. I am also looking forward to reading Rachel Neumeier’s other books, particularly The Floating Islands, which was published last year.
Recommended for: Mercedes Lackey fans, people who enjoy magical creatures, and pyros perhaps?
Real life repercussions of reading this book: Owning a griffin (or 5) in World of Warcraft won’t seem satisfying enough anymore.