Year of the Griffin

By Diana Wynne Jones

What’s the difference between a children’s book and a book for adults? That the protagonists are children and the plot can be a bit more complex and the story a bit swifter paced if it’s a children’s book? That the book is a bit shorter? Year of the Griffin is a book about students at a University, so the protagonists aren’t really children, but there’s a lot of story going on. Anyway, people with taste read Diana Wynne Jones, no matter under which category they are packaged and marketed.

  • Author: Diana Wynne Jones
  • Title: Year of the Griffin
  • Pages: 218
  • Published: 2000
  • Publisher: Victor Gollancz
  • ISBN: 0-575-07047-1

Year of the Griffin is the sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm, which in itself is the result of Diana Wynne Jones’ famous work The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. In short, the world where this book is set has been abused for years as a typical fantasy-world holiday resort for people who wanted a more thorough fantasy quest experience than one gets playing AD&D.

Now the quests, the Pilgrim Parties, are over, and the world is slowly getting together again. But there’s still plenty wrong, and one of those very wrong things is the Wizards’ University. The book follows a group of first year students in their first months at the university

We have Elda, Wizard Derk’s griffin daughter, Olga, the daughter of a pirate, Lukin, the Crown Prince of Lutheria, Claudia, sister to the Emperor Titus, Felim, brother of an emir and Ruskin, a runaway dwarf slave.

The first part of the book details the getting used to the university of these students; the middle the attempts of their parents or owners to get them back. And the finale occurs when the students take their teacher for a trip to the moon, or rather when they return from Mars, because they missed the moon.

Diana Wynne Jones’ characters are always a joy to get to know, and her prose is exceptional. The pacing of the book is just right, down to the ending — which is sometimes a bit too rushed in her other books.

In my opinion, Year of the Griffin is a better book than Dark Lord of Derkholm, which suffered from the ‘A doesn’t tell B what’s going on because otherwise the plot disappears’ syndrome. Here, everything is nicely balanced. Nice, too, to see that it has been reprinted recently in a nice format. Get both Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin at the same time and let them grace your shelves.