Thursday, February 26, 2009

Valdemar 03: The Silver Gryphon (Lackey, Mercedes & Dixon, Larry)

Rating: 4/5
Year: 1996
Genre: Fantasy
Read again? Yes

Last book of the first trilogy in the 26-volume epic of Valdemar. Only 23 to go. Yes, I will keep count like this all the way through. If I am going to endure the entire series, you can endure a countdown. You can also buy me a Sobe when I'm done.

Another 12 years have passed, so now it's 22 years since the Cataclysm in which Urtho took out the evil Ma'ar, his great and final enemy, before snuffing it himself. The resulting explosion of mage-energy disrupted magic for nearly two decades afterward, and only recently has it returned to normal. The City of White Gryphon flourishes and is a valued ally to the Black Kings far to the south.

For this novel, Lackey changes her main point-of-view characters away from Skandranon and his contemporaries to their offspring Tadrith and Silverblade. "Tad" and "Blade" (Lackey just adores nicknaming everyone with shortsie versions of their names) are young and itching to get away from their famous parents. Tad is the very image of his father, the Black Gryphon. Blade is the very opposite of her father, Skan's old friend Amberdrake. Both of them are in the city's police and military force, the Silver Gryphons.

The two get their dream assignment, a posting to a far-off outpost for a few months--and for quite a few pages it's not clear how many months, bouncing from "3 months" to "6 months" and back. I'm guessing it's "six months," since it'll feel like I've been reading these books for that long by the time I'm done.

Remember, these books are relationship-driven, so it takes nearly 100 pages for the story to get to Tad and Blade lifting off to fly to their assignment. The book doesn't seem to drag up to this point, so I can't really complain about taking a fourth of the book before things get going.

So they're on their way--and a mysterious magical force brings them down somewhere in the rainforest, both injured. The two are conveniently injured; that is, some bruises, cuts, abrasions, one broken wing for the gryphon, and a broken collarbone for the girl. Just enough to make things inconvenient for them, but convenient for the story. Not as annoying a plot convenience as the all-too-regular solar eclipse of "The White Gryphon." All their magic-powered items (including their communications equipment) are drained of power--and now they're being stalked by unseen predators. The rest of the book (about two-thirds) has them in "Man Vs. Wild" survival mode, living off the land and hiking to a safer camping spot to wait for rescue. They don't get a look at their stalkers until almost the end of the book. Most of the tension/suspense until then is of the fear-of-the-unseen sort. It's workable, but feels longish and draggish and let's-get-this-over-with-ish a good bit before it gets endish. Gotta take a pointish.

I finally came up with a description of Lackey's style while reading this book. Imagine the prissy See-Threepio droid from "Star Wars"; there would be just the right emphasis on filler-phrases such as "in no way."

Nickname Watch:
Tadrith: Tad.
Silverblade: Blade.
Keenath (Tadrith's brother): Keeth.
Amberdrake (Silverblade's father): Drake.
Skandranon: Skan.

No comments: