Review: The Griffin's Gauntlet

Sharon Amber is your average sixteen year old, with her stern and emotionally unavailable father, her doofus brother, and her secret elfish boyfriend. When said boyfriend, Gerald, asks her to sneak away and meet him in the forest at midnight, she figures there would be a little talking, a bit of cuddling, maybe some lovemaking. A night she will never forget.

She has no idea.

A few glowing magic orbs, some levitation, and swirling blue vortex of terror later, and Sharon wakes up to find herself in a new forest, with trees as big as redwoods, with bark as black as the night. And Gerald is nowhere to be found. Men!

She is taken in by Olden Jade, an old witch who teaches her about the magic realm she has landed in, and soon they discover that Sharon is unique in all the land. She's immune to magic.

And that gets Olden Jade thinking. The land of the Pix is under the thumb of the evil Dragon King and his magic sword. All Sharon has to do is travel through the haunted Blackwoods, kill a giant griffin, steal his all-powerful weapon, breach Bain City, get past the army of monsters, and kill Bain the Dragon King, and the land of the Pix will be free forever.

It's foolproof!

The Good: While the plot elements are not the most original in fantasy, this book has all the elements that people enjoy in fantasy novels. There are great fights, scary monsters, and unique and interesting characters. They all make for an enjoyable read. And Mr. Lowe builds up the momentum and suspense well, making the final fight between Sharon and Bain pretty damn exciting.

The author also makes good use of irony in the character of Darklin Reed, who plays a major role in the liberation of the Pix, but who will only receive scorn an hatred for all her days from the very people she helped save.

The Griffin's Gauntlet is a prelude to a new series by Wesley Lowe. If this book is any indication, the series will definitely be worth reading.

The Bad: As with most first-time small press authors, the prose is lacking. Too much narrative, too much description, excessive repetition of certain words, ham-fisted exposition, etc. Basically the book suffers from what I like to call new author syndrome.

Besides the prose, I think the author did a poor job on the character of Justin. He is portrayed as being little more than an arrogant bigot. Very little comes out of his mouth that doesn't involve his hatred for Darklin Reed, even after she saves his life several times. Perhaps he will undergo and arc in the later books in which he is able to let go of his prejudice, but I think that should have happened here. Because that character development doesn't happen here, I found nothing to like about him.

Hopefully that will change in his later books.

The Ugly: If you have read my reviews before, then you know I am a dialogue freak. And the dialogue in this book can be excruciating at times. Banshees that talk in Yoda speak, witches that try to sound medieval by saying "thou" and "thee." A lot. If Mr. Lowe works on his dialogue, he could improve the quality of the writing by ten times, easy.

One of the criteria I use for rating novels is whether or not I would want to read the author's next book or not. During the last 30 pages especially, I was pumped up and ready for the next installment.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Griffin's Gauntlet by Wesley Lowe
Published by: Helm Publishing; January 2004
ISBN: 0972301127
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Webpage: www.wesleylowe.com

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

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