Friday, January 22, 2016

Song of the Summer King (Jess E. Owen)

Song of the Summer King
(The Summer King Chronicles, Book 1)
Jess E. Owen
Five Elements Press
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: In ages past, the Vanir gryphons of the Silver Isles lived in peace with the wolves and other animals... until the Aenir came. The invaders conquered the smaller Vanir, slaying and exiling their warriors and taking their gryphesses and nests. As for the kits of the pride, as per gryphon tradition, all were slaughtered - save one.
Shard knows nothing of the Vanir ways, and cares little to learn; after all, the Aenir look only forward to the future, not back to the dead and the lost. It's bad enough that he bears their drab feathers among the brighter Aenir, the unmistakable mark of a conquered, weak race. Even as wingbrother to Kjorn, son of the red king Sverin, he's always been seen as different. Shard almost expected Sverin to exile him rather then let him join in the initiation Hunt on the island of the wolves; given the chance to prove himself, he's especially eager to show his worth to the pride. But something unusual happens that day, an encounter with the island's wolves that wakes long-lost memories. His Vanir heritage calls to him, even as Sverin grows more restless and ruthless. Can he ever prove himself worthy of a place in the Silver Isles pride, or does he have a greater destiny - one that might restore peace, or destroy everything he's ever loved?

REVIEW: I'll be honest; but for the appeal of the gryphons, I might've passed this one by. Many of the elements looked tiresomely familiar: the last son of a noble race, the conquerors from across the seas, the riddles and secrets hidden in old songs, a prophecy in dire need of fulfillment, and so forth. But I was in the mood for a light fantasy, and there were gryphons. (The fact that the eBook was offered for a discount didn't hurt, either.) Somehow, all those familiar puzzle pieces click together into something surprisingly pleasant, if still occasionally predictable. I enjoyed the world Owen created, a world of Norse-influenced gryphon lore and talking wolves and other wonders and secrets that make the Silver Isles spring to life in the mind's eye. The gryphons act like gryphons, creatures of sky and land, and not just humans in suits. As for the characters, most of them aren't so shallow and predictable as they might seem at first blush. Shard struggles between his heritage as a Vanir and the secret strengths it might grant him and his upbringing in the Aenir pride, where he has family and friends and love. He clings a little long to his loyalty to the king, but he does learn, and isn't led around by the beak; his decisions, when he makes them, are his own, for better or worse. Characters around him go through transformations, too, for better or worse. Tensions build across the Silver Isles, many fueled by old rivalries and prejudices festering beneath the surface, until the great climax where Shard must decide who and what he is. Naturally, as the first book of a series, some elements are left dangling at the end, but the conclusion is fairly satisfying, even as it tempts one to look for the second book. In the end, I'm satisfied, and very glad I gave it a chance. Now I have to decide if my wallet and schedule can accommodate Book 2...

You Might Also Enjoy:
Warriors: Into the Wild (Erin Hunter) - My Review
Dark Lord of Derkholm (Diana Wynne Jones) - My Review
The Book of Gryphons (Joe Nigg) - My Review

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