Valerie's Reviews > The Crystal Gryphon

The Crystal Gryphon by Andre Norton
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I THINK this is the edition I have. At any rate, it has the correct cover picture, and this is often important with these older books.

This is the DAW books edition and, as with most DAW books, they're a mixed blessing. Donald A Wollheim provided an opening for many beginning or lesser-known writers: but the editions were cheap: poorly-edited, on poor-quality paper, with inadequate binding.

This edition is a little better than some by the same publisher: it does at least credit the cover artist: Jack Gaughan. This same artist did the covers of other Wollheim books, but it seems to have been a matter of policy not to have actually READ the books. The cover picture (and the frontispiece) has no bearing on the text. There are carvings aplenty in the text: but not one moa'i (actually, I THINK the singular is moa'i moa'i). There's also a dedication: "To S.A.G.A (Swordsmen And Sorcerors Guild of America) In recognition of their encouragement in our chosen field of Ensorcelling"

Despite the manufactured mystery, the story, though told experimentally by two narrators, is remarkably matter-of-fact. Note, for example, that one of the things Joisan is taught as prospective Lady of Ulmsdale is how to make sugared violet petals, a favorite of her uncle.

The (literal and figurative) disintegration of Dales society is, in a way, a sort of dissective delineation of how the society had functioned for centuries by this point.

The Dales both were and were not a unified group. Though they were all descendants of a fairly uniform group of immigrants to the Witch World, they were always quite determinedly separatists, maintaining individual sovereignty for each Dale, despite intermarriages.

Further, they seem to have had little contact with other denizens of the Witch World. In this volume, Kerovan has an experience with the Road of Exiles. This experience drives home a fact which Kerovan, of all Dalesfolk, has had lifelong awareness of: that the Old Ones may be gone, but they are still impacting Dales life.

But there are other residents of the Witch World with which the Dalesfolk have had perennial contact--have there been NO intermarriages with the Sulcar, for example? The only 'outsiders' depicted in the Dales are pockets of relics of the Old Ones, refugees from Estcarp, trade with Sulcar, (who fall off in this period because of the destruction of Sulcarkeep), and, starting in this book, what amount to pochteca from Alizon (whose reports seem to have decided the dubious Alizonders in favor of the war they'd been recruited for by the Kolder).

After a childhood in virtual exile, Kerovan is recruited into what amounts to a confederation of Dalesfolk against the 'Hounds' of Alizon. Joisan, his wife by proxy, becomes a leader of refugees when her own Dale, Ithdale, falls to the invaders--and to Joisan's aunt, Dame Math, who after a lifetime of denial, uses her natal power to take revenge not only for herself, but for her brother, Cyart.

Joisan becomes so thoroughly corrupted that she doesn't even realize that she is corrupted. She describes ruthlessly bullying and murdering people with no evident awareness of how evil her own behavior is--though others realize, and Joisan finds herself subject to vengeful behavior which threatens her own safety and that of 'her people'.

The Crystal Gryphon becomes a protector for Kerovan and his child bride (they were ax-married when she was about 6), binding them together and also making them the target of manipulation of people not less scrupulous (nobody seems to respect scruples once war begins) but more powerful already.

This book is an early Witch World story, and introduces characters and situations that are longlasting. But later stories in this subseries are not such good stories (they often tend to be incoherent, because of elements of Power creating discontinuities).

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 9, 2009 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
Started Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
July 13, 2009 – Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
June 16, 2015 – Shelved

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