Review: Diana Wynne Jones – Year of the Griffin

Year of the Griffin
Diana Wynne Jones
The wizard university is suffering from severe money and staffing problems. The current head decides that his promising group of 6 students are likely to yield him money to repair the leaking roofs – but how wrong he is! With two students with jinxes, a griffin and a runaway dwarf things seem like they will go from bad to worse. Underneath all this, Wizard Corkoran wants to go to the moon but if he doesn’t change his set ways of thinking, he won’t get there – or will he?

As usual, I can’t do justice to the synopsis for the book. It’s easy enough to google one, and even just read the back of the book at the library. It’s a lot better to just read the book and be done with it! It isn’t a waste of your time to read anything by Diana Wynne Jones.

Elda is a strong female protagonist, even as a griffin she has her weaknesses. She is the youngest griffin daughter of Wizard Derk, and he doesn’t approve of her going to university, particularly the way the university has become hardbound and unable to teach anything but the basics. Even the basics are wrong, and together with the new friends she is making they must change the university from first year up.

This book is slow to start out in my opinion, but it is worth persevering. As the story progresses, it evolves from a simple university setting into a mess of assassins and mice! It is the characters and their various shortfallings that make the book interesting. It is rather plot driven, and I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of the characters, but finding out about each of their histories is interesting.
If you enjoyed ‘Dark Lord of Derkholm’, this book is a logical continuation. However, it is totally readable without having read the first book in this series. The novel is a little reminiscent of Harry Potter at first, with wizards going off to school. But really, it should be that Harry Potter is reminiscent of this! If you like school-based books, this one will draw you in.

The ending is just a little too neat, with everyone ending up happily paired! The story as a whole is good though, although not quite as good as the first book in the series in my opinion. Maybe I’m just tired of the old wizarding school idea? I would have much rather learned about how Kit and Blade (Derk’s sons) learnt magic from a dragon or perhaps about the childhood of Derk’s winged humans.

I would recommend this book for both children and teenagers. I wouldn’t say there was anything in it unsuitable for children, although I could be wrong. It is pure enjoyable fantasy, and I don’t regret having chosen this book off my shelf as my 40th book review reward.

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