K.J. Taylor’s The Dark Griffin is billed as “the first book in an edgy new trilogy,” but felt like reading a very long prologue. Unfortunately for the reader, the gist of the story is told in the couple of paragraphs on the back cover, taking away any suspense. I hate when the back cover gives too much away. We go into the story knowing Arren is going to end up in the arena and that he will end up partnered with the wild, man-eating griffin he captured. This entire first book is given over to telling us all the horrible things that happen to the main character to turn him into the heartless person he has to become for the rest of the trilogy. So, at the end of The Dark Griffin, the reader is left with the feeling that now, finally, we can get on with the story.
The overall pacing is slow. There is too much stage setting and not enough storytelling. The writing is clunky in places, especially the dialogue. There are too many bits and pieces tossed in at random moments — a discussion about religion, a myth of how griffins came to be, and an appearance by Rannagon’s bastard son for no other reason than that he’ll be needed at some point later in the trilogy. The final clichéd last line from Arren’s girlfriend almost got the book thrown at the wall.
The motivations of many of the characters are unbelievable. One character meets Arren at the beginning of the story for a few minutes and months later decides to place himself in jeopardy to help Arren, for no other reason than “I liked you.” Rannagon — Arren’s nemesis — is too wishy-washy to be believed. And having Arren in love with Rannagon’s daughter was just too stereotypical.
I know it sounds like I hated The Dark Griffin, but mostly I was just frustrated. I wanted to like this book. I like griffins. I like characters that have to fight against the odds. There was a story in here I wanted to read, but there was just too much going on: racism, griffins have magic but it’s never really explained, wild griffins vs. tame griffins, religious issues, class issues, and too many improbable moments. This is the first book in a long time that made me want to take my editorial pencil out and start making notes.
I think The Dark Griffin would work better for a young male audience. The 19-year-old main character, lots of fighting and some gruesome scenes with the griffins would probably appeal to teen and young adult readers.