The Crystal Gryphon is the reason I keep meaning to read more Andre Norton. Another reread for Once Upon a Time, it’s a beautifully written book with a vivid world and excellent characters.
The narration alternates between our two leads, Kerovan and Joisan. Kerovan was born of humans but with his taint of Old Blood showing in his amber eyes and hoofs. He is shunned by his mother and grows up apart, despite being the son of a lord. Wishing to affirm Kerovan as his heir, his father makes a political betrothal for him to Joisan. She’s strong-minded and independent, but fiercely conscious of honor, duty and loyalty. Officially married as children but never meeting, Kerovan and Joisan follow separate paths, until all plans change with the coming of invaders from across the sea.
I love Kerovan and Joisan, and the growth they each experience. Kerovan in some ways comes to terms with his past and his differences–and in other ways does not, which is okay because there are two more books after this. Joisan is always intelligent and strong, and in time of crisis she emerges as a leader for her people.
Without giving much away, Kerovan and Joisan do eventually meet. I liked all of the book, but it felt most compelling when the characters came together–and in my memory, it stood out as a much larger section than it really is! The development of the romance is brief, but felt satisfying too.
The culture and the world is immensely rich and complex, with several societies jostling together. Kerovan and Joisan’s people have a feudal structure and loosely Medieval technology. The invaders come with modern weaponry. And all throughout the land, there are traces of the Old Ones, who possessed mysterious powers. The book has some sense of a larger context, and apparently its part of Norton’s larger Witchworld series. I don’t know much of the larger context, but I don’t feel like that was ever a barrier to reading.
I have a few criticisms…Norton relies a bit on characters experiencing compulsions, to make them do things that don’t entirely make sense but move the story forward. Considering powerful magic and larger forces are woven throughout, though, I’ll mostly give that a pass. The alternating POV is brilliant for getting into both characters, but can make the chronology confusing in places, when we jump backwards in the timeline with a POV shift.
But those are relatively minor issues, more than made up for by Norton’s beautiful writing style and wonderful characters. Highly recommended–and I already got hold of the sequel.
Author’s Site: http://www.andre-norton.org/
Buy it here: The Crystal Gryphon