Before discussing the details of Leslie Ann Moore’s novel, Griffin’s Daughter, I would like to get a few minor complaints out of the way, along with an admission.
First, the admission: I don’t read romance novels, and since I don’t think it would be unfair to classify Griffin’s Daughter as a fantasy romance, I must admit that it took me some time to make the mental shift away from my more traditional expectations of a fantasy novel. While this in no way diminishes the quality of Griffin’s Daughter, I feel obligated to point this out since it took me longer to get into the story than it otherwise might have had this been a fantasy novel more in line with my expectations.
So when I conclude that the story may have started a little too slowly, perhaps this was due to my experiencing something different in the genre, and therefore is not a complaint that should be laid upon Moore. I would like to point out, however, that it may have been due to the transition from an active prologue to a more passive opening of the story that contributed to this perception of a slow pace; thus, I will label this transition from the prologue to the body of the story as a minor complaint, but I am willing to allow this to be a failing on my part rather than Moore’s.
My other minor complaint may also be due to the pace shift between the prologue and the opening of the story. Once I mentally shifted into the more passive first few chapters centering on Jelena at Amsara, Moore caught me off guard more than once with a few abrupt scenes that were more explicit in language and sexual content. Don’t get me wrong. I have no issues with adult content, having loved Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Perhaps this jolt was intentional, or perhaps it was due to my still transitioning mindset from more traditional fantasy stories, but nonetheless, I feel this was something worth mentioning.
So now that these minor complaints are out of the way, I think Moore has produced an excellent debut novel here. The story is well imagined and well crafted, her imagery and style making for an easy pleasurable read. Her characters are believable, and while parts of her dialog might be considered by some to be simplistic, I was more than willing to give it a pass because, as I said above, this is as much a romance novel as a fantasy novel. I’m not trying to impugn romance novels with that statement, and I’m not sure this would completely excuse the lapses in dialog anyway; however, since this was a debut novel coupled with the fact that I felt the dialog strengthened as the story progressed, I was able to quickly accept some of what I’d label cookie-cutter romance dialog in the opening few chapters and move on.
On the plus side, Moore did have a knack for referring back to the good versus evil plotline started in the prologue often enough to pull a reader like me along. Splitting the first reference to the Nameless One and moving part of it earlier might have tied the prologue to the opening better, but this is probably knit-picking. Again, I was willing to let my minor issues with the pace go as I was aware that she was laying the foundation for what was to come. Perhaps it was a good thing that I knew this was the start of a multi-book series, and I knew Moore had time to dwell a little longer on her character development and world-building.
So now it is time to talk about what I felt to be the most annoying aspect of Griffin’s Daughter, something that turned the story greatly in Moore’s favor. Yes, I said annoying, and yes, in my mind, it was what elevated the novel to a work worth recommending to others.
Of course I am talking about Jelena; it’s been a long time since I came across a character that so thoroughly annoyed me. Now I suspect at this point many fans of Griffin’s Daughter might have just yelled: “What is he talking about? I love Jelena!” However, let me explain, remembering that this is my opinion, and that it only proves the strength of Moore’s writing that allows two contradictory interpretations of Jelena to co-exist in the minds of her readers.
When I say annoying, I mean annoying on the scale of Thomas Covenant annoying. I suspect Moore is nodding her head now, understanding the compliment I have just given her. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to reach into the book and slap Jelena. Okay, perhaps that is too harsh, but Jelena’s continual self-doubt and self-depreciation concerning her status as a half-breed, along with her inability to seize the initiative and take control of the events surrounding her, left me exasperated. Even after Jelena “got her man”, she was still unable to take control of her situation, relying on the misplaced trust of those around her, most of whom were clearly manipulating her. However, even after being completely irritated, I was quite cognizant of Moore’s writing ability that could evoke such a strong emotion in a reader. At no time did I consider setting the novel aside because of this.
I haven’t read the two follow-ups to Griffin’s Daughter yet, so I’m left asking myself if Moore can redeem Jelena and make the transition from an immature tool to a complete heroine. To answer that, I’m going to give Moore another roundabout compliment and mention another fantasy author, my opinions of which I will save for another day. Moore can redeem a young adolescent Jelena quite easily by not pulling a Robert Jordan and allowing Jelena to grow up; thus, letting her mature out of her youthful insecurities.
So which direction will Jelena take? I will keep reading on the strength of the unresolved plotline of the Nameless One, which has intrigued me enough to want to uncover it in the sequels, as well as to uncover the unresolved Magnus plotline; therefore, how Jelena matures and grows may be immaterial at this point as far as it concerns my desire to continue with the series. I hope, however, that my desire to see Jelena fulfill her role as a strong heroin comes to fruition since I don’t like feeling like I need to slap some backbone into her every dozen pages. It makes me feel a little sexist and bigoted, two themes that Moore has so successfully brought to the forefront of Griffin’s Daughter.
So to summarize, I think Griffin’s Daughter is a welcome and excellent addition to the fantasy genre. Moore has certainly done enough to recommend this as well as to leave the reader wanting to continue with the series in Griffin’s Shadow and Griffin’s Destiny. Perhaps I will write a follow-up once I have read them and offer an opinion on the maturation, or lack thereof, of Jelena.