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Year of the Griffin (2000)

de Diana Wynne Jones

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Sèrie: Derkholm (2)

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When Elda, the griffin daughter of the great Wizard Derk, arrives for schooling at the Wizards' University, she encounters new friends, pirates, assassins, worry, sabotage, bloodshed, and magic misused.
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This is a sequel of sorts to 'The Dark Lord of Derkholm' but more along the lines of the relationship between Anne McCaffrey's main Dragon series, DragonFlight, DragonQuest etc, and her series about the harpists in the dragon weyr. In other words, this is on a much smaller scale, and is aimed at a younger age group on the whole though there are some 'adult' references such as when Elda the griffin finds herself lusting after a rather nasty visiting griffin who also makes her furious.

The story is set about eight years after the events of the first book and Elda, the youngest griffin is now attending the university to learn to control her magic. She wasn't much of a character in the first book, in fact I felt she could've been dropped without any harm to the story, but here she takes a much bigger role. Her family are off doing very important things such as trying to help the land recover after the disastrous Pilgrim Tours which devastated the fantasy world or at least this content. There are various references to tell us what happened to the characters, some of whom appear in the story in cameo roles, and other things are mentions in passing that, for example, her parents did have two winged children after her father suggested the idea at the end of the previous book.

The University is broke following the termination of the tours, and more seriously, as we discover during the story, the teachers are mostly useless. They were taught during the 40 year duration of the tours when what counted was practical magic useful on the tours and all other aspects simply were not taught. The problem wasn't so serious before apparently, because elderly teachers who presumably had had better training had been teaching previously - otherwise, you do wonder how the Chancellor, Querida, another main character from the first book failed to realise this.

Since the tours ended, Querida, has been living in the waste and gradually transforming it back to productive land, and changing the monsters back to rabbits and so on. She doesn't know about the terrible teaching or that the man she has put in charge is a complete idiot with no interest in the students other than to get as much money out of them as possible, while he spends most of his time on a project to travel to the moon.

Elda soon makes great friends with the other first year students, a mixed group including a dwarf, a prince, an Emperor's sister, a pirate's daughter, and the brother of an eastern Emir. Most of the plot comprises their attempts to protect the Emir's brother because the leader of the university arranged to have begging letters sent to all the students' parents etc, then found out that for various reasons none of them were afluent and most of the students were there unbeknown to them or against their wishes. Due to his moon preoccupation, he then forgot to ask the person on whom he dumped the letter writing job to not to send the letters.

As the Emir sends assassins when he gets the letter, because his brother has defied his order to stay at home, and it is an insult to his honour, the friends band together to create protection spells with unpredictable results. Two of the characters also have 'jinxes' caused by negative attitudes they've experienced at home, and a foolish teacher makes the situation worse for one of them. And the pirate turns up with bloodthirsty followers to force his daughter to marry one of their ghastly crew. There are quite a few vanilla romances between various characters, and even the female griffin is being lined up with a suitable spouse by the end. The ill advised trip to the moon does end up being made though not in the form its originator envisaged.

The main problem I had with the book was first of all that it is such a different book in scale from the first, and that none of the characters with the possible exception of the griffin Elda and another griffin Flury who joins the University later on and ends up doing some supply teaching, are very convincing or interesting. Also there is a sequence when some psychopathic griffins arrive having been exiled from the other continent. We learn in a short summary that a war happened there, that the main characters from the previous book were involved in stopping it and brokering a peace deal, and that these nasty griffins should have been executed for war crimes but were close relatives of the rulers and have been let loose to wreck havock.

The trouble is, the story of what went on in the other continent sounds much more like the 'widescreen' multi-subplot epic story of the first volume and a much more interesting story altogether. I found myself wishing DWJ had been able to write that as a full book instead of this rather lightweight domestic tale. This impression was reinforced because the part of the book I enjoyed most is when Elda stands up to the dirty, disgusting, violent griffins and shouts a lot of invective at them. The story comes alive at that point with an air of real threat and the possibility that something nasty could happen to our University characters. That part is so different to the rest of the rather comedic tale of assassins minaturised or turned into mice, and a trip to the moon that turns into farce and is pretty tedious, plus all the adolescent romance, that it does rather point up the weaknesses of the rest of the book. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
I enjoyed Book 2 about the Derkholm clan as much as the Book 1. Here Elda, the youngest (I think?) of the griffin children gets her heart's desire and goes to the Wizard college, only . . . while Elda immediately makes friends with the others in her class (which include heirs to various empires and kingdoms and exotic fortunes) things are not going at all well there as far as pedagogy goes. The present wizard teachers were all trained during the period of "The Tours" and were taught ONLY what they needed to help the visitors and themselves survive. Any sort of invention or theory or unconventional ideas and attempts were thoroughly discouraged. Of course, mayhem ensues! I love Elda. I'll miss them all. ***** ( )
  sibylline | Mar 30, 2022 |
Basically you and your misfit friends in college but with magic and your academic advisor is a space travel obsessed Gildoroy Lockhart. I love how the story progresses and the shifts between funny and serious and I love the griffins so. Wasn't a fan of how almost everyone got paired off by the end. Romance not needed.

2022 edit to say I enjoyed the critique of academia ( )
1 vota mutantpudding | Dec 26, 2021 |
I much preferred this follow-on to Dark Lord of Derkholm. I never bought the "tour groups overrunning the world" plot of Dark Lord. It always seemed to me to be a joke for a flimsy short story that made it difficult to understand or empathize with any of the leading characters. The focus primarily on adult characters also made it an odd tale for the young adult market. Year of the Griffen has neither of those flaws, plenty of invention, some wry digs at universities, and a plot that initially seems episodic but eventually leads into a grand knot at the end, if a little too pat with too many happy endings.

Recommended. ( )
  ChrisRiesbeck | Jan 23, 2021 |
Almost better than the first one, as it has less of a rigid story structure to cling to. The magic is way more fun - and powerful. It is full of humor and a great read. ( )
  cwebb | Aug 12, 2019 |
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» Afegeix-hi altres autors (5 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Diana Wynne Jonesautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Broadbent, JonathanNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Dawson, GemmaNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Smith, DuncanAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Smith, Joseph A.Autor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Sullivan, JonIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Wyatt, DavidAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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When Elda, the griffin daughter of the great Wizard Derk, arrives for schooling at the Wizards' University, she encounters new friends, pirates, assassins, worry, sabotage, bloodshed, and magic misused.

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