Thanks to what I read for the last post, I finally had a chance to get to its sequel that I’ve owned for a decade but never read past the first chapter. This time I read the first quarter in one day during a car trip, half of which was spent with an overly bright reading light. The last quarter was finished today. Everything else took about two weeks, as along with life getting in the way, the middle lost momentum. I found it easy to put down in places and that was unfortunate.

It’s ten years later. That’s quite possibly the longest jump in time I’ve ever seen in a sequel. Those from the war camp in Black Gryphon have moved west and developed a new settlement named White Gryphon, named both from a conveniently shaped bit of geography there and from Skandranon, who no longer has the black dyes that gave him his namesake. He’s white, out of shape, having to be more of a political symbol than anything he deems useful, and overall he’s quite unsatisfied with life. Apparently the reckless guy misses risking his neck on a regular basis. What does bring him happiness are his twin gryphlets and mate. We don’t see the little ones much, but they are adorable, and thankfully the beautiful illustrations from the last book are back for this one. My favorite picture involved those two.

See, he’s white now. He’s also a tubbygryph for a while, but the artist was kind enough to Photoshop out his thunder thighs.

Still, Skandranon doesn’t feel like himself anymore. He’s miserable. Throughout the book the plot does force him to gain his old spark back, and before long he’s calling himself the Black Gryphon again. This finally leads to him requesting to be dyed again, and an amusing scene with the gryphon, Aubri, where his feathers aren’t drying as fast as he thought. I’m glad Aubri came back, though it’s sad to see him aging.

The story centers around another kingdom that has claimed the land where White Gryphon stands. Most of the scenes take place there as our heros try to come to an alliance so a war doesn’t break out. Of course it’s not that easy as murders begin to happen and it appears they’re coming at the hands (talons?) of Skandranon. This could have been an engaging murder mystery, but since we know who’s doing it pretty much from the beginning, it takes any suspense out. I know this isn’t really a mystery novel, but that angle could have been effective especially since this part of the plot is what bogged it down for me. Further frustrating is how long it takes the characters to even realize the cause of their troubles. I’ve never seen such obliviousness.

The man “who dunnit,” a diminutive creep named Hadanelith, who would fit right at home in some torture porn, is too unrealistically evil to be interesting. He’s just a nuisance you’d like to swat away and get back to the story. Now later someone feels that he must be the product of some demon, and that could have been interesting, but we don’t know. The parts of the story that really dragged on were when it cut to him or one of the mages that were helping him and we had to listen to them think about how evil and sneaky they were. That could have been summed up in a paragraph and then shown through action. At one point in the middle it went on for a whole chapter and it took me more than a day to get through it. The chapters in this book are much longer than before too. Internal monologue can be okay, but when the characters aren’t engaging and we don’t care about them (in this case cause they’re unbelievable,) it gets tedious and boring. These scenes cut time from others. Skandranon, whose scenes are always great, had to sacrifice screen time and somehow I doubt he’d like that. And not just him, but his friend, Amberdrake, king Shalaman, the grandmotherly Makke, and others.

For that matter, many of the new characters came off unlikable until later in the book. I wanted focus on those I’d grown to care about. Part of this comes from a new culture with a face-palm-inducing social structure. You can tell many people are being taken advantage of with the will of the gods being the excuse. It is interesting to see a new culture, but at the same time it’s maddening.

The way the book ended was great and thankfully didn’t feel so abrupt as the last one. The way the antagonists are taken out is highly satisfying too. I love how Lackey used one of the characters to do it who really needed a moment to shine. The satisfaction would be like if I got to punch Rob Schneider in the face. Oh, why can’t someone make a book about that?

While the book had some moments that bogged down, in the end it was still a satisfying read. I’ll look forward to The Silver Gryphon when I get to it, but for now it’s time to catch up on the other books I read this year, and something winter themed for December.  Now, what could that be . . .

I want a Kechara plus, and when you squeeze it it has to say, “Papa Skan!”