May 2010 – Feature Article
This month’s Feature Article will be returning to the Griffin’s Daughter Trilogy by Leslie Ann Moore, and we will be taking a look at book two in the series, Griffin’s Shadow. Book one in the series, Griffin’s Daughter, was reviewed in the December 2009 Issue, and while I enjoyed it, I did come away with a few minor issues, or if not outright issues, some hopes for how the story would progress in book two. I am happy to report that Moore has satisfactorily addressed all of my concerns, and that I found book two to be an excellent continuation of the story.
I do, however, have one minor complaint concerning Griffin’s Shadow: it was too short, and ended just when it really seemed to get rolling. This speaks well for book three, and I actually considered continuing with the series and writing this review on both books. I haven’t read book three yet, but I feel pretty confident that I can make this recommendation regarding the trilogy: read the books back-to-back, treating them as a single volume. None of the three books are very long, and the total page count probably does not exceed the length of many single volume works. I suspect many readers already treat a series this way when all the books have been published, but I think the Griffin’s Daughter Trilogy is really conducive to taking this approach.
I am also now wondering how accurate my review of book one was, and for that matter, I am wondering how accurate this review can be when it is analyzed independently of the final book. It almost seems unfair, particularly when facets that might have been viewed as flaws work themselves out in the later books. I am, however, keeping this thought in mind as I write this review.
So let’s recap my biggest complaint with book one. As you may remember, I took issue with Jelena and her constant wallowing in her half-breed status, and her inability to seize more control of her situation. I used the word ‘annoying’ when describing her self-doubt, as she seemed to constantly allow events to shape her destiny rather than taking a more forceful course. Even after winning the love of Ashinji, she seemed reluctant and passive, but after reading book two, I now have to give Moore credit for how she handled Jelena in book one. While Moore may have allowed Jelena a little more backbone earlier in the story, the characterization was consistent yet evolving. Most importantly, it provided Moore a lot of room to have Jelena mature and grow into her role, which I was very happy to see Moore successfully take advantage of in book two. It should come as no surprise that I found the pivotal scene for Jelena’s maturation to be her visit to the Jokimichi district and her meeting with Sateyuka.
In addition to being the pivotal scene for Jelena’s maturation, I also found this scene to be the most descriptive in the series so far. It was this scene that left a lasting impression on me, and after reading it, I felt Moore’s world rather than just saw it written on the page. When Jelena entered Sateyuka’s home and they sat to have their tea, this one simple scene did more to immerse me into Moore’s world than any that had preceded it. I was reminded of Gandalf’s visit to Frodo early in the Fellowship of the Ring – perhaps it has something to do with two characters in a more humble setting and the conversation that ensues. All I know is that when this scene ended, I saw the whole city, and by inference, the whole world that Moore had created. It was very well written, and when it was combined with Jelena’s growing maturation, it became the pivotal scene in the series for me.
The next thing that Moore did that proved indispensable in Griffin’s Shadow was to split Ashinji and Jelena; without doing this, however, I’m not sure the story could have continued in any meaningful way, but given the fact that their constant fawning over each other was getting old, it killed two birds with one stone. However, I’m not sure the method Moore used to split them was completely believable, and I did wonder how many variations Moore contemplated when constructing the scene of Ashinji’s capture. The end result was all that mattered, though, even if the means seemed a little contrived. While it was immediately predictable that Ashinji would be reunited with Magnus, I was very happy to have that thread brought back into the story. I also really liked the introduction of Gran and the additional facet to the Kirian Society that it provided.
Which, of course, brings us to the Nameless One; I was very pleased with how Moore expanded this section of the story, something I thought she could have done a bit more of in book one. She quite effectively started building those layers up, weaving them more strongly into the plotline. The scene with Lady Sonoe and her rape by shadow was very well crafted, and it gave the reader a very clear insight into both of those characters. This was another scene that left a lasting impression.
So this brings me once again to my only real complaint with book two: it ended just as it was really gathering steam. While this is really a compliment rather than a fault, I did feel that there was a disparity in pace between the first half and the second half of the book; however this is a minor issue easily forgotten.
So all-in-all, I think Griffin’s Shadow was an excellent continuation of the trilogy, and I felt that it was a stronger and more descriptive work than book one. I think Moore hit her stride about half way through as the story reached the ‘I can’t put it down state.’ This, as I mentioned above, bodes well for book three. On the strength of book two, I would have no reservations recommending book three. Moore seems to have mastered her craft, and all the pieces seem to be in place for an exciting conclusion to the Griffin’s Daughter Trilogy.