YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN by Diana Wynne Jones


Age Range: 11 - 14
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The sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm (not reviewed) continues to spoof traditional fantasy, this time satirizing the “school for magic” genre. Nine years after the wizard Derk shut down the demonic Mr. Chesney’s devastating Tours, Derk’s precocious but naïve griffin daughter Elda enrolls in the Wizards’ University, only to discover its crumbling infrastructure, stripped library, and stunted curriculum reflect a faculty intent on stifling innovation in favor of utilitarian mediocrity. Elda assembles the requisite motley assortment of stalwart friends, sketchily presented in reverse stereotypes: the poverty-stricken prince, the beautiful, compassionate commoner, the meek imperial princess, the revolutionary jargon-spouting dwarf, and the vaguely Eastern target of fanatic assassins. After a brief pep talk on free enquiry from Derk, the six rapidly outstrip their tutors’ magical prowess, and are soon foiling various nefarious villains, inciting the overthrow of a repressive regime, stopping wars, and inventing interplanetary exploration. Meanwhile, each reveals the obligatory dark secret and overcomes personal trauma, and all are neatly paired off in a denouement of sudden, nigh-inexplicable romances. This is all fun, frothy stuff, and Jones writes with a deft hand and a wicked sense of the absurdities inherent in the conventional formulas. Teens harboring doubts about their teachers’ competency and sanity will revel in it. But the breakneck pace makes for perfunctory characterization and a muddled narrative, delivering neither the inspired lunacy nor the sophisticated twisty plotting that her fans expect. Like a chocolate-covered marshmallow, this is tasty fluff, but unsatisfying. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-17898-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Greenwillow
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2000


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