The Silver Gryphon is the last book in The Mage Wars trilogy. In The Black Gryphon we learn about a therapist/masseur human named Amberdrake and his best friend, a prideful war leader gryphon named Skandranon. The world crashes down around them in the Cataclysm, and the “good guys” are spread all over the globe to rebuild. In book two, The White Gryphon, ten years later Amberdrake and Skandranon are out-of-shape new parents working on building a city called White Gryphon, but they learn they have neighbors who technically own the land they’ve chosen as their new home.
In The Silver Gryphon, it’s been another dozen years and Amberdrake’s and Skandranon’s kids want away from their parents — as far as they can get. Tadrith, the young gryphon tired of being compared to his legendary father, and Silverblade, eager to avoid sharing her feelings with her therapist father, join the city’s military/police brigade called the silvers. Partners, Tadrith and Silverblade are assigned the post furthest from White Gryphon, one that they will maintain for six months in isolation.
A theme running through The Silver Gryphon is that of crafting an identity. Blade worries that her father has too much power as a man who knows everyone’s dreams, fears, and weaknesses. He could use confidential information he gains in his profession to his benefit himself. Afraid of her own feelings, and afraid people will want to overshare their feelings with her and burden her with the responsibility of keeping secret their messy emotions, Blade becomes a hardened warrior in direct contrast to her pacifist father in order to carve out a separate identity. Watching Tad, but mostly Blade, decide who they are as young adults in comparison to their parents was well-done at a good pace.
Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon do something unusual in this third installment: they limit the number of characters. The focus is truly on Tad and Blade, and by keeping down the number of characters and perspectives, the authors let us really get to know these personalities. As a result, I was able to more firmly understand Tad and Blade and see them as complete characters more so than I have in a long time in the Valdemar books. Tad’s playfulness and teasing juxtaposed Blade’s serious nature regarding military education and romantic relationships. Although trained combatants, when put in a hopeless situation, Tad and Blade could be vulnerable, scared, and miserable, but also resourceful and logical.
What’s scaring them? In order to get to the outpost, they will have to fly for days over a rainforest. Tad cannot carry the weight of their supplies and Blade, but with a basket that holds everything and hooks to a harness Tad wears, a mage can use magic to make the basket weigh nothing. The pair are given a device infused with magic that allows them to communicate with White Gryphon. In fact, now that the wild mage storms caused by the Cataclysm are over, the tribe’s youngsters are fairly dependent on magic, while the old generation remembers having to do without it. Strong foreshadowing tells readers that Tad and Blade will be left without magic, and Lackey and Dixon make good on their hinting when all magical devices Tad and Blade use go dead, causing an accident with no way to call for help.
In the middle of a rainforest, badly injured, lost, and in mortal danger, Tad and Blade get the vibe that something is watching and stalking them. Sitting in the dark in bug-filled make-shift shelters, the pair are terrified. The more I read, I realized I was getting scared too! What’s in the dark? Why do the canopy animals go silent? Are Tad or Blade going to die — starvation, infection, maybe overdosing on painkillers? Are Amberdrake and Skandranon going to realize their children are missing, form a search party, and die trying to find them in some blaze of glory? As Tad and Blade continued to limp through the jungle — a horribly awkward and unnatural way for a gryphon to travel! — I was getting panicked just by the environment:
Sweat trickled steadily down the back of [Blade’s] neck , and her hair itched unbearably. For that matter, so did her feet, shins, armpits. . . any number of tiny forest insects were finding her tasty fare, and she was covered with itching, red welts.
Thanks to such vivid descriptions, I thought The Silver Gryphon has a more appealing setting, one that affected me as I read. Caring about two characters and wondering how their fathers will react to young adult children who have vanished in a rainforest kept me emotionally invested, especially as I was scared each day when the torrential rains came pouring down and darkness descended. That doesn’t mean the days felt endless; I found the novel tightly plotted, moving along as needed and varying the days’ events enough that I sensed something building. A great addition to the #ReadingValdemar adventure.
*I would be remiss if I failed to note that this book, as are all books in The Mage Wars, is full of typos.