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Griffin Mage #1

Lord of the Changing Winds

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Griffins lounged all around them, inscrutable as cats, brazen as summer. They turned their heads to look at Kes out of fierce, inhuman eyes. Their feathers, ruffled by the wind that came down the mountain, looked like they had been poured out of light; their lion haunches like they had been fashioned out of gold. A white griffin, close at hand, looked like it had been made of alabaster and white marble and then lit from within by white fire. Its eyes were the pitiless blue-white of the desert sky.

Little ever happens in the quiet villages of peaceful Feierabiand. The course of Kes' life seems set: she'll grow up to be an herb-woman and healer for the village of Minas Ford, never quite fitting in but always more or less accepted. And she's content with that path -- or she thinks she is. Until the day the griffins come down from the mountains, bringing with them the fiery wind of their desert and a desperate need for a healer. But what the griffins need is a healer who is not quite human . . . or a healer who can be made into something not quite human.

367 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Rachel Neumeier

42 books480 followers
Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

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Profile Image for Kater Cheek.
Author 31 books258 followers
August 5, 2010
In many ways, this is a perfectly decent sword-and-castle type fantasy, and in one way it's better, because it has griffins. The griffins are the best part, because griffins are awesome and underused.

The plot is great: we have three different peoples, the griffins, the humans of Feierabriand and the humans of Casmantium, all of whom are arguing over more or less the same terrain. As with many fantasy novels, the people are rather modern and civilized in that they all desire as little blood-shed as possible and are willing to use diplomacy to get it. This was my first hurdle. The characters are all very nice to each other. Sure, they have battle scenes, but when they're not battling, they're mostly civil. They don't have that callous contempt for others (especially low-class people) that one would expect in a medieval milieu. For example, at one point a fifteen-year-old girl falls in with enemy soldiers, and everyone takes it as a given that her safety and her honor will remain intact. Not that I'm fond of violence and rape, but their decorum felt out of place in a military camp.

My other gripe was with the magic. The griffins are creatures of fire, and they create desert to live in by their special magic. This desert is hot all the time, unlike most deserts, which are very cold in winter and at night (unless they are at the equator). I don't know why I'm able to swallow magical sentient flying griffins, and yet get my feathers ruffled when authors play fast and loose with meterology and terrain, but there you have it. I wanted a real desert, like the one I live in, or like one I've visited, and it's not like that at all. This desert isn't a real landscape, just the idea of a desert, a mere symbol. Here's a quote.

"The desert was as cleanly and elegantly beautiful an any airy palace or many-towered citadel built by men, Bertaud thought. But it was not a place meant for men, or for any creature of earth."

(Deserts are not meant for men? Um, tell that to the Navajo and the Bedouins.)

The premise of the magic is that griffins are creatures of fire and air, and are thus inimical to humans, which are creatures of earth. Kes, the main character, becomes a fire mage, which means she can heal griffins and do enormous feats of magic, all of which come at little cost. Not zero cost, we learn that she will "become a creature totally of fire and not of earth" but this is so poetical that I had no idea what it meant. What does it mean to have fire in your blood? To have bones of red sand?

I really like my fantasy grounded in reality. I want to know where Kes sleeps when she's in the desert, what she eats, what she drinks when she gets thirsty (only the dead do not thirst), and if it bothers her that her clothes are dirty or if she's used to that. She doesn't eat anything until about 200 pages in, and then she doesn't eat very much. Having people with no earthly needs makes me think of them as dreamers, and if the story is just a dream, that its outcome doesn't mean that much to me. Neumeier lapsed into florid prose when describing how beautiful and glorious the griffins were, and about the red sands of the desert, etc. but without description of the mud and squalor to counterpoint it, the descriptions just felt like trite poetry.

As for characters, we have Betraud, advisor to Iaor, the king of Feierabriand, and Kes, the girl who lives with the griffins and heals them. Kes did not interest me, as her personality felt too passive and malleable; she occasionally threw a tantrum when the plot required it, but mostly she just did what people asked of her. She has power, but it comes too easily, and she doesn't really seem to want anything, except for her friends not to die. Bertraud had a lot more potential. He loves his king, but he comes to admire and respect the griffins too, and he finds himself caught between them. I think I could have found his story quite engaging, if the novel hadn't been bogged down with unnecessary description, ungrounded descriptive prose, and explanations of a magic which felt at its core to be based on flawed premises. (Everyone knows that the opposite of fire is water, not earth.) I wanted a horse-and-castle fantasy in which plausible griffins were folded into the ecology, and instead I got a fable with fairy-tale physics.

Profile Image for Paul Weimer.
Author 1 book134 followers
June 21, 2010
I love Griffins.

Sure, Dragons are awesome. Dragons are mighty. Dragons go with heroic fantasy as much as, say, treasure laden dungeons.

But Griffins...

Combine a lion, king of the beasts, with an eagle, king of the air. That's a potent combination. A combination that speaks to me in a way that the coldly reptilian eye of a dragon doesn't always manage. Too, Griffins are not as well developed as dragons. Everyone knows dragons breathe fire (except when they don't). Everyone knows they love riddles (except when they don't). Smaug is the classic, archetypal dragon.

Griffins aren't anywhere near as common, and so their natures are more of a blank slate...and thus room for a writer (or a GM) to invent as they like. I like seeing that potential fulfilled...and this latest read of mine makes it happen.

Lord of the Changing Winds is the first book in a new trilogy called "The Griffin Mage" by author Rachel Neumeier.

Set mainly in the country of Feierabiand, Lord of the Changing Winds is the story of Kes. A young healer in the backwater village of Minas Ford, her life, and the life of her country, are turned upside down by the arrival of large migrating band of Griffins. Why the Griffins have left their desert, what they want with Kes, and the machinations of the Kings of Ferierabiand and neighboring Casmantium are the Matter of this first novel.

This is Neumeier's first adult novel, and there are striking strengths, and, unfortunately, some glaring weaknesses that mar but do not completely spoil the reading experience.

Best of all is Neumeier's imagining of what Griffins are, and what they do. Their terraforming of the land around them into a beloved (to them) desert is a wonderful conceit and concept, and a strong rationale for why Griffins are usually found in places far isolated from man. The characterizations and emotional palettes of the characters, both human and Griffin, on all sides of the conflicts are strong. I felt myself wanting to know more about the Griffins, their culture, and the cultures of the two very different nations caught in the claws of the Griffins life.

The quality of the writing is very good. Neumeier describes the Griffins lovingly, with the words of someone who loves these creatures as much as I. Each of the Griffins we meet is an individual, in appearance as well as personality. Her writing description of environment goes best when she is describing the Griffins desert, and less so when the action takes us elsewhere.

The magic use in the novel was not strong enough for me to judge it. I need more data before I can decide whether it makes sense or not. I can see the lines of how it works, but I'd like to know more before I decide if I like it or not.

The weaknesses in the novel on the other hand have to do with the movement of people, and more especially armies. There is a phrase in military circles: "Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics."

As bad as it seems that armies fly around the map of Neumeier's world (and they do, I couldn't get a decent sense of scale), the worse part is the logistical trains. Neumeier does not seem to really have considered the logistics and supply chains needed to make the movement of these armies, especially at speed, practical and possible. From a 30,000 foot level. what the two armies are trying to do makes sense. But without a decent sense of scale, it seemed as realistic as wargaming in the video game Civilization IV. Happily, this is not as crucial to the enjoyment of the book as one might fear, but this lack of thought was disappointing.

So, would you, gentle reader, like this book? If your preference is for fantasy fiction with strong characterization and the use of a neglected mythological creature, the Lord of the Changing Winds might be your cup of tea.

If you prefer the military aspects of your fantasy reading to be more rigorous. you are going to be frustrated with swaths of this novel. Personally, I think the strengths and inventiveness and quality of the writing outweigh the negatives, and I have already make plans to buy and read the second novel in the series.
Profile Image for MB (What she read).
2,314 reviews14 followers
April 10, 2015
Really nice worldbuilding, and griffins are a nicely unusual change from the norm.

BUT, I found myself caring less about the characters on finishing than upon beginning. (Not great for keeping me invested in reading the sequels.)

I also thought the warfare was poorly managed. I'm not at all knowledgeable about or interested in military fiction or strategy but there were quite a few times when I said, "wait...what!?!" to myself. Seriously, these men do not seem to think logically about waging war--particularly in dealing with magical creatures they have no prior knowledge of.

I was also weirded out a little by the secondary main character developing a weird superpower in the middle of the book with no leadup or good reason that completely changed the slant of the book. (Blink, and I'd have missed it.) Still don't understand what when how why where. Hand wave?

Will I continue with book 2? I don't know. Maybe.

Cover Art: I have to say, this is amazing! Perfect!

Note to self: Actually read this in the omnibus edition but haven't read next 2 yet. Consequently cover art in kindle will not match this review.
Profile Image for Heidi.
756 reviews174 followers
January 19, 2012
Originally reviewed here: http://bunburyinthestacks.blogspot.co...

Kes is a young woman with a talent for healing, destined to become an herb woman of a small village in Feierabiand, until the day that the griffins arrive to make a dessert north of Minas Ford. A man appears in the village, a man whom Kes knows instantly is no man at all, seeking a healer for his people and asking Kes’s help. She agrees to do what she can, not understanding the consequences of her actions or her own power. Bertaud, Lord of the Delta, and friend/advisor to the King of Feierabiand is dispatched to investigate the griffin’s arrival. Seeking to negotiate a peace agreement or force the griffins to disperse, Bertaud feels an immediate affinity for the desert, discovering his own odd attachment the the beings therein.

I was attracted to this book instantly, primarily because of my love for another series featuring gryphon mages, the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey. It is only the second time that I have seen griffins featured as main characters, and I was excited to see how the treatment of them compared. While Lackey seemed to emphasize the similarities between her human and gryphon characters, Neumeier’s griffins reflected the opposite with their distinct un-humanness. These griffins are creatures of fire, their shadows flicker, they bleed garnets and cry carnelians. This isn’t a book that is compelling because of the characters themselves, but one where you become invested in the overall story. The characters involved are in no way shallow, but they can be difficult to identify with because of their lack of humanity. In this way, the lack of identification makes the story intriguing as something you desperately want to understand but know you never will.

The world that Neumeier builds for her griffins is so beautiful, and presented in such a well-paced manner that this book will grab you instantly, and hold you, without any of those “here’s the oh-so-dull history of this land” moments that seem to pop up regularly in high fantasy. I adored the magic presented through her earth and fire mages, and more so I loved the concept of having an affinity for a particular creature. My only complaint was one that I often have with high fantasy novels, and that is the naming scheme. The country names were obscenely long and difficult to wrap the tongue around, as were the names of the griffins themselves. The griffin names didn’t bother me so much as there was good reason for them to be as long as they were, but it did make it difficult to keep them strait--thank goodness for physical descriptions or I would never have properly identified any griffins other than those most closely involved with Kes and Bertaud.

I have to say, after finishing A Dance With Dragons, Lord of the Changing Winds seemed like a happy-go-lucky hugfest of high fantasy. It wasn’t, of course, it was in itself a very politically driven novel, but with level-headed characters who aren’t quite so submerged in subterfuge and bloodlust. In fact, it messed with my head a bit. The rulers in Lord of the Changing Winds genuinely care about their people, and make decisions based on what most benefits them, rather than what most benefits the ruler themselves. The good sense was a bit baffling after 1000 pages of Mr. Martin, and I enjoyed it quite thoroughly (though in no way am I disparaging the sheer awesomeness of A Song of Ice and Fire).
Profile Image for Ithlilian.
1,664 reviews24 followers
January 12, 2011
I have tried to limit myself to character based fantasy lately since the quest driven fantasies are starting to tire me. At first glance Lord of the Changing Winds fits the bill, it starts with a day in the life of our main character, Kes. That is how I like to be drawn into a fantasy world, and I was interested right away. I don't enjoy long drawn out descriptions of what the land looks like, who rules where, and who hates who. Unfortunately, the second chapter brought just that. I felt like I was reading the same story twice. We would hear about events from Kes and the griffins, then from the king and company. Change in viewpoint only works when it gives us new interesting information, and that is not the case here. It doesn't help that the king and the other characters in that section of the world were very flat and uninspiring. Kes was the only promising character in the story, and she isn't very deep either. She handles living with griffins as if it was taking a trip to the beach. She wants to escape and visit home occasionally, but that feeling doesn't last too long. She gets angry at people for deceiving her then gets over it right away. Overall, I feel that this story had the potential to be good, but it fell short. Talking griffins, interesting magical abilities, and a decent conflict made this novel worth finishing. However, a single viewpoint with more character development would have made this novel great. If it took more than a few pages for Kes to learn fire magic and to acclimate to living with griffins then my interest would have increased. If cold mages were explored in more depth and more information was given about the enemy, then I would have enjoyed this book much more. As it stands Lord of the Changing Winds feels like a very simple war story with some griffins thrown in. Nothing is complex enough to make this novel excellent. Griffins are normal, the human characters are normal, and the bad guys want some more land. Decent, but not what I expected.
Profile Image for Teril.
339 reviews23 followers
October 8, 2010
I love griffins, so I picked up this book at Powells over the summer. It was a great read, the characters are detailed. I guess i give it a three because I was not feeling complete after the ending. Don't get me wrong it was a great read and I went to the bookstore and picked up book two but I think I was wanting a bit more. A bit more character growth, a bit more hmm, romance, a bit less writing about the world and other people and places and palaces and place history since I really wanted was the griffins to kick arse and the girl to change and want the Lord of the Changing winds. I wish Kes was a stronger girl and not like a flowing river in any direction the story takes so I hope she grows a spine in this next book and some loins also. That would be sweet. I think shorter character names would have rocked the griffins more because there is nothing more mind warping than trying to twist thoughts around kids fighting around the home front and trying to remember handfuls of characters with 30 letter names that are not shortened or even recognizable.
So Rachel it was a great book, it was not all easy peasy, it was not smooth, but I have higher hopes for book two. Griffins are a great choice they are kinda left out of the genre and i appreciate their rebirth in your book, but maybe nicknames on them? I know it might not be might and regal and all that, but the readers are not always linguists.
Great job.
Profile Image for Angela James.
Author 28 books61.3k followers
May 23, 2011
I actually felt indifferently enough about this book that I'm not sure if I'll read the second, though the volume I got is actually the 2-book set. The story was fine, but I didn't feel a particular connection to any of the characters (in case you haven't noticed, I'm a character reader--the world can be awesome, but if I don't connect to someone in the story, a book doesn't work for me). In fact, I was never sure who the protagonist was, since we get several point of views and I didn't feel inclined to "root" for any of them. I don't need a character who's all good or all bad, but I guess I want someone who I can feel compelled to hope for a good outcome for--even if they don't get their good outcome. In this particular book, I didn't feel that connection to any character.

One thing that was hard for me at the beginning was the griffin names. They are long and complicated and often seem similar. I found myself flipping back and forth to read a passage, then go back and figure out who is who, so I could get them set in my mind.

All in all, a competent book, but not one that made me feel passionately about it in any way.
Profile Image for Rosalind M.
598 reviews19 followers
May 1, 2010
For me, the story was lost in the amount of information the author gave about characters, places, and history. I got to the point where I was skipping over pages of background information that should have been woven into the storyline or may not really have been integral to the plot as the reader saw it (versus what was in the writer's head). I suspect that the next book will be a much more enjoyable read, since the background will already have been presented.
Profile Image for Amanda.
704 reviews96 followers
October 28, 2016
The worldbuilding in terms of the griffins and their desert/fire magic was exemplary. Their names really interrupted the flow of the narrative for me and became very problematic. I thought the plot was pretty thin, and only just sustained what was a rather short novel anyway.
Profile Image for Elena Johansen.
Author 5 books28 followers
July 5, 2021
DNF at the end of the first chapter, around 10%. Which, you know, is a loooong first chapter, and that's part of the problem. (I counted pages for the next one, which turns out is half as long. I'm not a stickler for consistent chapter length, but that's pretty variable already.)


I understand that not all stories start with a bang. Some of them barely even start with a simmer. This wasn't even on the heat, it was so slow. A larger-than-I-wanted portion of that first long chapter was awkward exposition-dump tangents about the history of the town and how it was So Important because of where it was on the river, yet it was also a bit of a backwater, and oh this is the family that runs the inn, except the mother doesn't really run the inn she makes pottery and arranges the flowers for the inn and isn't that special, that the tables at the tavern at the inn always have this specially made pottery with fresh cut flowers that don't wilt as fast as they should because everybody is just a little bit magic and that's her thing, flowers and pottery?

In case you think I'm exaggerating...well, I'm not, that bit about the town and the inn takes two pages and I was bored the whole time. Whenever I thought the story was going somewhere, that the main character might actually do something, there was a tangent about somebody or something else to stop her. At least until she FINALLY abruptly nonsensically goes to the griffins. But I'll get to that issue later.

The other thing I found distracting (and detracting) from what little plot there was, was a chain of editing mistakes, inconsistencies, and word repetition that added up to a feeling of amateurish writing. And I've got receipts: the first one concerns how old our protagonist Kes is. One of their farmhands both "hired on six years ago" and "has been on the farm half [Kes'] life." So, taken literally, she's twelve. Less literally--if we assume the farmhand has been around for half of the life she remembers (because she wouldn't remember being a baby) she's fourteen or fifteen handily, sixteen would be stretching it. But she also has a sister who's starting to go gray (one of the inane character details in the exposition dump about her) and has been "quickly married and quickly widowed" twice. Well, how quickly? Did those unnamed unfortunate husbands die after a month of marriage or a year? How long between the marriages? Why were the siblings born so far apart as to make this possible? Or, alternately, just how young did the sister marry the first time around? And why is this aspect of her life brought up at all if it's a one-sentence history that isn't explored in any depth, despite it raising all these questions for me in order to have it make any sense? (I'm assuming, of course, that these past marriages aren't important, but I don't know. I do know that the book is about griffins and magic and the younger sister, not the older one.)

All of that, because the author wouldn't just say how old the protagonist is, so I have to nitpick these not-necessarily consistent details to figure it out. And I'm still not sure. Her precise age isn't important if we're talking about a month on either side of sixteen, but the difference between twelve or fifteen or twenty sure is significant to how the character thinks and talks and acts, right?

Kes acts like...I don't know, a spacey and exceptionally shy four-year-old? She can't talk, even to people she knows, and especially not strangers. She has her head in the clouds about griffins and nature and not doing anything at all that her sister or society want her to do, but not in an actively rebellious way that implies she has a spine, just that she's terrified of basically everything that might resemble normal life. And the "can't talk" part of her personality gets really grating when she's interacting with the mage and the griffins at the end of the chapter, because every time she's upset or confused, she thinks something and "looks helplessly" at the mage, and he answers her just like he's read her mind. Which apparently is a thing that griffins can do, but wow, does it not justify the protagonist not having the will to actually say what she thinks out loud, and wow, does it make for really awkward "dialogue" in the narrative. No, thank you, I know it's only been one chapter, but if you can't sell me on your protagonist in the first chapter, what are you even doing?

As for the other issue I mentioned under this umbrella, the worst offender for word repetition was "white" showing up five times across two consecutive sentences--four in the first, once again in the second. The passage was describing a griffin, and okay, I get it, the creature is the whitest white ever seen, but for pity's sake, don't say it so often!

The whole tone of this is inconsistent, hand-wavey nonsense that's scattered in ten different directions by all the things it's trying to accomplish at once. It's got no focus, so I don't have patience for it.
Profile Image for Stefon.
2 reviews79 followers
January 29, 2017
It was alright, not great but not bad, either. Has me interested in reading the next one.
Profile Image for Ranting Dragon.
404 reviews229 followers
December 19, 2010

When I entered my local bookstore for the first time after I started reviewing, I decided I should at least pick up one book I would never have considered reading before. The novel of choice was Lord of the Changing Winds, the first book in The Griffin Mage Trilogy by Rachel Neumeier.

A story of Griffins
As the title of the series suggests, this is a book about Griffins, and it is the first book about these mythical creatures I’ve ever read. After some research, I discovered that Neumeier’s Griffins are unique in that they are bound to the desert. These Griffins, half eagle and half lion, are elemental creatures of fire and air, and carry the desert in their hearts. The plot begins when the Griffins are driven from their dry lands by the Casmantium cold mages, fighting them with weapons made of ice.

When rumors of invading Griffins on his soil reach the king of Feierabiand, Bertaud is sent to command an army of a hundred soldiers to drive away them away and the desert they have brought with them. The Griffins, knowing they cannot return, have made provisions of their own. In a small village near the mountains where they reside, they have found a young girl, Kes, who can provide them with the assistance they need to face human armies. The price for Kes, however, might be high.

Creatures and characters
From the very first pages, the story of Lord of the Changing Winds has unfolded in a spectacular way, turning this novel into an absolute page turner, with numerous fascinating feats. One of these feats is, without a doubt, the use of Griffins. These creatures have never interested me much, but seeing them in this world, I can’t believe how wrong I was. Neumeier has managed to create a species that feels so different to humans, that are impossible to comprehend, yet not at all uncomfortable to read about. The choices these creatures make feel completely alien to me, which has been an intriguing aspect of the book.

Not only the Griffins have been well-written, however. The human characters are very deep and comprehensive as well. Their choices and struggles along the way felt very real to me and kept me interested in the story. However, I did feel these characters developed too much, too quickly. The entire story takes only seven days, but leaves almost every main character completely changed. Some of these changes even happen overnight.

Lack of world building
The fact that this novel is a true page turner with amazing pacing comes at a high price, however. While the world of The Griffin Mage has significant potential, it lacked world building. For example, the story contains numerous different magic systems, some of which were used extensively, but none of them were truly explained. The characters just perform their magic, and we never learn how that works, even though it is quite obvious that Neumeier has thought thoroughly about her magic systems. I feel that, if Lord of the Changing Winds had been just a little bigger than its 365 pages, its world could have received the attention it deserved, giving the reader a much more epic novel to read.

Everything fantasy needs
These concerns, however, do not mean I didn’t enjoy this novel, because I truly did. This book has every aspect I look for in a novel, albeit sometimes a bit shallow: believable political intrigue, creatures of fire, multiple extensive magic systems, suspense, plot twists, epic battles and characters to love and be moved by.

Why should you read this book?
If you love fairy tales and fantasy about mythological creatures, you will most likely enjoy reading Lord of the Changing Winds. I look forward to reading the next two volumes of this trilogy, which have all been released in 2010, and if the world building improves, I might even recommend it to any fan of epic fantasy.
Profile Image for Mike.
72 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2014
I was given books 2 and 3 in this series for Christmas, so I felt I should read book 1 first to get a sense of things. From doing so, I'm not at all sure I will be reading those later ones.

Things I liked about this book:

Things I did not like about this book:

Pretty much everything. To specify:

- Terribly overwrought. I don't have the easiest time articulating this feeling, but it's something I find in certain types of work that try to be epic fantasy. It's a style common to Arthurian-style tales, or the elven poetry sections of Tolkien, or that which I've read of Guy Gavriel Kay. It's a yearning toward something tragic and grand and lost, with melancholy and ennui draped over top. I am not at all a fan of this style of something being epic, but it seems that there are those who do like this approach.

- Very poorly explained magic. Magic is central to the story line, and the main character is the typical shy teenager discovering magical powers of many other stories, and yet how magic is done and what it can accomplish is left amazingly undetailed.

- Bizarre reinterpretation of fantasy elements. Mages seem to be aspected to classical elements in this series, yet the only ones we've seen are fire and earth, which are apparently inimical to each other. (There is also some lip service to some sort of legalistic magic of contracts which remains incredible even less explained than other forms of magic). Griffons are apparently predators who gain no nourishment from their kills, yet kill anyway. A lot of this is just weird.

- Ridiculous distances. Armies, even on horseback, aren't going to be covering 50 miles in a day, yet they need to for several days in a row for the distances in this book to make sense. Yet the kingdoms are actually pretty small as far as even historical kingdoms go, so travel times are all still extremely short.
Profile Image for Cindy.
854 reviews90 followers
June 8, 2010
This was one of those books that I was looking forward to reading in 2010.

I don't know if this is a first or second book but the author is fairly new to writing. While I enjoyed the book and plot, there were huge areas of information dumping. Either when described the land, or characters or background. I noticed that I'd skip huge paragraphs, this did get toned down a lot after midway but it'll be hard for people to get past it. Especially since some of the information isn't really an essential part to the plot.

The characters were wonderful especially the 2 griffins, the mage, and Kes. All of the characters were emotional, passionate and drawn out very well.

The plot line was really interesting, and the magic portrayed was really intricate and just what Earth/fire magic should be.

I did have a hard time understanding the countries and mountains and picturing it. The descriptions didn't describe it as small but troops marched many many miles and the desert area was hard to pictures such a vast area with such a small world that was developed. That and the info dumping were my major complaints.

The book does pick up and I did enjoy the whole book. I'll be seeing how Neumeier grows with the second book because there was a lot of potential there.
Profile Image for Fantasy Literature.
3,226 reviews160 followers
May 24, 2013
Lord of the Changing Winds is a very well done, straightforward fantasy novel. While there isn’t anything earth-shatteringly new here, neither is there a sense of “same old story.”

Rachel Neumeier takes an interesting direction with Kes, one of her main characters. Kes is a 15-year-old orphan girl, raised by her sister in a small, quiet village. She has healing abilities and doesn’t quite fit in. So far, all the clichéd standards. Kes, however, is not a cliché. Once Kes meets the griffins and is taken by the griffin mage who awakens the magic within her, she changes. She becomes more and more distant from her human emotions. Kes isn’t your typical teen heroine and I for one was happy that this wasn’t just another “youth bonding with a magical creature” book. The other main characters are Bertaud, advisor to King Iaor of Feier... Read More:
Profile Image for Mona Moon.
77 reviews31 followers
June 28, 2019
This was just okay after a promising start.

Special snowflake alert: ordinary farmer girl with no parents, is suddenly a mage, can out of the blue heal griffins, is promptly part of their group even though they are anti-human, is in a key position in a war... all a bit much.

Also I dislike the griffin names (Opailikiita Sehanaka Kiistaike, Anasakuse Sipiike Kairaithin..), they are exhausting and distracting.
Profile Image for Brooke Banks.
913 reviews175 followers
June 3, 2019
I read and LOVED Neumeier's Black Dog and am going through her earlier work.

I read these back to back and now it's all kind of blurred together. Only less than usual because this is so different than typical YA trilogies--in the best way. It follows different character POVs each book and there's quite a gap of time between them.

Can't lie, griffins have never really appealed to me before. I love these flying magic cats though!

Love the unique world building with the different magic. Not just the griffin's are different, but the mages and how the countries use them.

AND!!!! There's no threats of rape, insulting base groups of people, or a myriad of other unpleasantries we take as a given. These are pretty decent people all around that we get to follow. There's antagonists, and an overarching plot of villainy, but most people are just doing the best they can. Instead of 50 shades of dark grey-black like in Game of Thrones, we get the lighter end of the spectrum. Which is honestly such a fucking pleasure and relief to read.

Book #1: Swept me away. Love Kes, her family, and Bertrand. The griffins are Set in Fierabiand. There seems to be crushing involved, but not much else. It's all about freedom, and friends, and doing the right thing, which is more complicated than people like to think.

Book #2: Threw me for a loop! Set in Casmantium. We find out so much more about their magic, their ice mages, their king, and society. Bertrand is involved like halfway through and we see Kes in the very end. But the main POV's are two nobodies, who are something else. Great love story too! Slow burn, friends to lovers, nothing on the page but the adorable falling.

Book #3: I thought I was prepared after the second book. I was not. Set in Feierabiand and Casmantium, with secret rescue mission to Linularinum. Find out quite a bit about Linularinum and their lawyer-scholar-trickster magic. Again, main POVs are two previous unknowns with different magic than before. Shows the harm critical demeaning family and an MC overcoming anxiety & self-doubt from it. Another slow burn adorable falling in love romance. We get true updates on everybody.

I was NOT expecting the ending each time, and I loved them all.

The German covers are so much better though.
Profile Image for Tracy.
933 reviews70 followers
March 19, 2011
~* 4.5 Stars *~
As the season just starts to change from late spring into early summer in the land of Feierabriand, a shy, slightly fey young girl from the village of Minas Ford is up in the hills gathering healing herbs when the first of the mighty griffins wing overhead, the air turning hot and arid in its wake. Soon the sky is full of the gorgeous but deadly creatures and Kes watches in awe until they disappear beyond the mountain. Their arrival heralds a change on the wind that will shake Feieraband down to its foundations, strip the earth from Kes' blood and replace it with fire, and bring war to a kingdom.

In Lord of the Changing Winds, we're introduced to the young and painfully shy Kes, the powerful and proud griffin mage Kairaithin, and the idealistic and honorable human Betraud, Lord of the Delta and right hand to King Iaor of Feierabiand. The fate of their corner of the world rests on those three sets of shoulders and they, along with a handful of others, inhabit the pages of this book with ferocious presence, dedication, and a will to triumph that is as epic and thrilling as it is delicate and complex.

It was the idea of griffins, a mythological creature that I favor but one that isn't over populated in the fantasy and urban fantasy genres, that drew me to this book when I stumbled across it on Amazon.com and I've rarely been happier that I gave a book a chance. Rachel Neumeier has created a breathtaking world and breathed fiery life into the landscape of this first book in the Griffin Mage Trilogy, with a complex and layered plot full of eddies and currents that are as changeable as the very winds the griffins command. I was tremendously impressed with the originality of the mythos and dedication to character definition that brought such fantastic color to this world, creating a griffin culture and individuals that are utterly unique. I thoroughly enjoyed Neumeier's creation of that species and admire how adeptly she kept that species decidedly other than human in a very believable and fantastic way while keeping their plight sympathetic despite the fact that the majority of griffins as individuals were anything but.

In fact, this book is richly populated with groups and people who aren't really all that nice in any sort of heroic sense, and their own agendas and prejudices often pit them against each other. What's compelling about that is how utterly believable and realistic that is considering the cynical world we live in. The fifteen year old Kes is by far the most innocent of the characters and still through the course of the book that innocence transmutes to something otherworldly.

I loved her journey, and I loved Bertaud's growth and development. I admired the way Neumeier was able to allow us glimpses into the hearts and minds of griffins. I thought the concept and plot of this opening gambit into the series was well paced and complex enough to maintain my interest, though I was more interested in the griffins than in the kingdom politics, especially at first. Those two aspects of the plot came together quite nicely further into the book, though, so I was happy. I think the narrative had a nice flow, and I have little criticism for the way Neumeier tells her story.

There were just a few minor issues that didn't detract from my admiration of the book as a whole, but did prevent a full five star rating. When introducing the griffins to the reader through Kes' eyes and mind, I was a bit overwhelmed by their names. Perhaps it's ridiculous, but when I come across a word or name that would be difficult to pronounce, it pulls me right out of the story and I sit there for long minutes working it out - that's not something I do consciously, and it's one of the reasons I used to avoid anything dealing with the Fae because those Gaelic names are killers. I know it's not an issue everyone has, but it definitely puts a cog in my wheel when I'm reading, and the griffin's names seemed like a cross between Native American and Japanese so I had some trouble with them, especially given how long the full names were and how often they were used in full. Eventually, I just focused on their familiar names.

I also felt that the author relied a little too heavily on repetition when setting the griffins apart from humanity in thought and deed in the beginning. I read over and over how this expression or that action wasn't as a human would feel it, do it, express it, or say it, seemingly for each emotion and action of each griffin, at first. More than once I thought to myself that I'd gotten the point that these creatures were definitely beyond the ken of human sensibilities and cultural mores and didn't need the constant reminders. I think readers would've been fine with more subtle reminders periodically through the length of the story.

On a personal level, there was one thing about this book that didn't set very well with me. I felt very odd about the direction of Kes' personality towards the end of the book and ended up feeling a little short changed and unhappy where she ended up in her development. I liked her character so much that I felt her absence in the last couple of chapters quite keenly, and when she returned to the focus she was so utterly unrecognizable that I almost felt as bereft as her sister seemed to. And to be honest, I'm not sure that's something that I can criticize the author for, because by that time, I'd definitely gotten the hint that griffins are not human and neither by then was Kes so the fact that the disconnect was felt so keenly for me as a reader, but maybe that meant the author did a truly brilliant job with her character and the story... If so, who am I to complain?

Still, it wasn't the sort of goodbye I would've preferred and that, along with the other minor issues, is what prompted me to keep the rating of Lord of the Changing Winds just shy of a full five. Of course, that being said, I did quickly download the second in the trilogy, Land of the Burning Sands, and would strongly recommend you do, too. Lord of the Changing Winds was a fantastical foray into a breathtaking world and I can't wait to read more.

Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.
Profile Image for K. Nagle.
Author 11 books29 followers
November 3, 2019
I've been thinking about this book a lot lately. I planned to review the series when I finished it, but the sequels are a little more like standalone stories with new characters set in different sections of the Griffin Mage world, so it makes more sense to take each book as they come.

The reason I've been thinking about this book a lot is because of the protagonist. She was surprisingly subversive in ways I didn't expect. She plays upon the fantasy tropes of little girls who find magic and must look to family, siblings, and love interests in order to find the value in humanity in a way I haven't seen done before.

I'm a gryphon fan first and foremost, so I can't go through a whole review without talking about how much I enjoyed Neumeier's gryphons. They're essentially fire elementals who warp the environment around them, and she doesn't shy away from the implications that come from that. They're sapient, but they aren't "humans in chicken suits" as I've heard people critique some gryphon protagonists in other novels. They feel like the 'other', though through the protagonist, they have their own level of sympathy, especially for the eponymous griffin mage himself.

When I chat about this book with other gryphon fans, I sometimes hear them say they stopped at the 20% mark. This is a '90s fantasy, and there was an assumption back then that pacing wasn't as important at the start of a fantasy book, and editors favored encouraging authors to let the reader 'ease' themselves into the novel. If you can get to the 25% mark, I promise you'll be hooked from there until the end.

It's been months since I finished this book, and I find myself wishing there were more protagonists like this one, more gryphons as fire elementals.
111 reviews
June 1, 2021
One of the most difficult things in fiction, I've always thought, is to write the genuinely inhuman and to make them interesting. Not humans in fur or scales or gas or embodying an entire planet, but something inherently alien that is still close enough to human that people (well, I) care.

I can't say this is a good book, honestly. The gryphons continually navigate that thin line of being alien but not too alien, the main character is a blank slate who has been transformed by the gryphons into something like them, and while I think it's relatively one of the better pieces of writing I've seen on the theme, it still has the flaws that are almost impossible to avoid with that. The truly alien quickly becomes tedious, and this does a better job of most than avoiding it, but it's still there. If it weren't for the secondary protagonist this book wouldn't work for me at all. The politics is thin and very obviously there to drive the characters into the plot without a lot of development.

But I really liked what the politics drew out of Betraud and Kairathin, and I think that's where the book was strongest? The politics is there to bring out both their drives to protect their people, and Kes' transforming desires to protect her people, and used that to bring a race that is pretty high on the alien scale back into the realm of comprehensibility. And whether that's something that interests you or not is probably the best gauge of whether someone is going to enjoy this book.
Profile Image for sigaloenta.
477 reviews20 followers
July 21, 2020
I had almost no memory of this from the first time I read it...

Anyway: Kes is an even odder protagonist than usual; she reads as neuroatypical in some ways but I can't tell how far it's an intentional depiction. But it mostly works, I think, as a portrait of someone "finding their place" in a way about folding them into "normal" society but on the contrary is about following one's own sense of self and one's own choices even when they alienate you even further. Which is interesting!

Neumeier also does a pretty good job with the griffins: alien and strange and terrifying to humans, but also compelling. But as usual, the strongest relationship is the bromantic bond between Bertaud and Iaour and the most compelling character arcs are theirs and -- in the last quarter -- Bertaud's relationship with the series-titular Griffin Mage. Neumeier is really good at putting problems of power and domination and trust and necessity front and center.

Some things that were weak: Jos, especially at the end. The decision to use German words and faux-German words for the language of the "baddies" (although they are, in typical Neumeier fashion, not really "bad") but not in any relationship to their meaning in German. It was incredibly distracting!
Profile Image for Karith Amel.
549 reviews22 followers
March 8, 2021
I'm never quite sure how to categorize Rachel Neumeier. Her style and skill demands that she be placed closer to the work of Robin McKinley than, say, Veronica Roth or Holly Black. She is not a sensationalist author - her stories build slowly and quietly and carefully and beautifully . . . and contain that of substance and depth and truth . . . and yet . . . her work also never feels quite fully formed to me. It's like she's still practicing. There's so much potential, so much raw beauty, but it needs one more editing pass . . . or something. Her books still feel just a little bit, well, amateurish. I think she could be among my favorite writers, if she could just figure out how to strengthen her beginnings so they are as strong as her endings. She has the vision . . . she just needs to keep refining her craft.
Profile Image for Eco.
259 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2016
I read this book because it was there - a discard of my daughter's sitting on the coffee table. I had just submitted my final assignment (#52 in 17 weeks) and wanted to read for pleasure. No more scholarly journals and articles or text books requiring metacognition. Another late night/early morning reading (0125-0600).

Female protagonist, not so strong, over-powered by 'male' in need, giving no option but to do 'his' bidding. Reminded me of Iraq and Kuwait - invasion of another country for want of a harbor. The subsequent battle dominated by foreign (griffin vs. eagle). Okay, so maybe the metacognition did not shut off.

Back to my NPR Top 100 list after Dec. 14th.

2 reviews
March 24, 2022
Really fun and engaging story!! The characterization of the griffins and their relationship to the desert are very interesting! Kes is a phenomenal character, and watching her discover another culture that she understands and takes pride in while still caring for the life she knew made me tear up. Will be checking out the sequel.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Heather Graham.
183 reviews4 followers
March 29, 2019
I struggled with the slow beginning chapters but it soon picked up. Parts of the book were worthy of 4 stars but overall averaged 3. Still it kept my interest enough that I’m going to read the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Nicole Luiken.
Author 21 books157 followers
September 26, 2020
I enjoyed both the griffins, creatures of fire and desert, and the magic. I also really liked Kes, her shyness and otherness in the early scenes foreshadowing the greater change to come once touched by magic.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,569 reviews24 followers
March 26, 2021
I listened to this and I think it did it a disservice. I enjoyed the last couple of chapters much more than the chapters I listened to. It's a good story, but the extensive world-building was tedious at times.
Profile Image for Kate McDougall Sackler.
1,117 reviews6 followers
January 3, 2018
I liked this quick read with interesting world building. Although it is the first in a trilogy, it could function as a stand-alone.
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