Year of the Griffin, by Diana Wynne Jones, was published in 2000 by Greenwillow. It is the sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm.
It is eight years after the tours from offworld have stopped. High Chancellor Querida has retired, leaving Wizard Corkoran in charge of the Wizards’ University. Although Wizard Corkoran’s obsession is to be the first man on the moon, and most of his time is devoted to this project, he decides he will teach the new first years himself in hopes of currying the favor of the new students’ families—for surely they must all come from wealthy, important families—and obtaining money for the University (which it so desperately needs). But Wizard Corkoran is dismayed to discover that one of those students—indeed, one he had such high hopes for, Wizard Derk’s own daughter Elda—is a huge golden griffin, and that none of the others has any money at all. Wizard Corkoran’s money-making scheme backfires, and when Elda and her new friends start working magic on their own, the schemes go wronger still. And when, at length, Elda ropes in her brothers Kit and Blade to send Corkoran to the moon…well..life at the Wizards’ University spins magically and magnificently out of control.
Year of the Griffin is not nearly as good as Dark Lord of Derkholm. It’s not even a particularly good Jones novel. It reads more like a “sequel due to popular demand” than anything. The charm of Dark Lord of Derkholm was its satirical look at fantasy tropes; Year of the Griffin just plays everything straight. Since it is Jones, it’s still a decent novel, and a decent fantasy novel, but it lacks the charm of the first book.
The book is mostly about Elda & Friends dealing with the strange things that happen to them at school. There’s some mystery and plenty of oddity and multiple “love-at-first-sights” and lots of shenanigans as only Jones can write. I do think, though, that you have to be a Jones fan to really enjoy this book. If you’re not familiar with her, you might think it’s a bit long and rambling and boring—which it is, in parts, but as a Jones fan, I can tolerate that more because I know her style (and enjoy it!).
Did I enjoy the book? Of course. I love griffins. I love Jones. I liked all of the humor and most of “what happens.” Is it a particularly good book? I’m not sure. It’s decent, certainly. Better than a lot of other fantasy novels. But I’m not sure it’s very good, in the grand scheme of things.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Some violence.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
At the top he encountered Wizard Dench, the Bursar. Dench came shuffling across the landing, wearing old slippers and a moth-eaten gray dressing gown. “Oh, there you are, Corkoran,” he said. “I’ve been to your rooms to look for you.” For some reason Dench was carrying a black cockerel upside down by its legs.
Corkoran stared at it, wondering if Dench was taking up black magic and if he ought to sack him on the spot. “Dench,” he said, “why are you carrying a black chicken by its legs?”
“On the farm when I was a boy,” Dench replied, “we always carried them this way. It’s the best way to capture them. That’s why I was coming to look for you. I don’t know if I was dreaming or not—I was certainly asleep—but while it was climbing through my window, I got the idea it was a man. But when I woke up and looked, it was a cockerel. Running everywhere, making a dreadful noise. What do you think I should do with it?”
Year of the Griffin has a strong “sequel written because of popular demand” vibe. It lacks all the charm of Dark Lord of Derkholm, though has plenty of heart and fun shenanigans. It’s a pretty unnecessary book to read, and it’s not a great Jones novel, but for Jones’ fans, it still has plenty of her trademarks to enjoy.
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