Gryphon’s Eye by Kevin Weston

Welcome to the world of Gryphon’s Eye, an epic fantasy in which familiars—those magical beasts of classic folktales—loom as the ultimate chess pieces in a battle for the soul of a kingdom.

Traejon Frost has spent the last five years of his life roaming the mist-shrouded forests and mountains of the kingdom of Fyngree in service to the famed sorcerer-king Owyn Suntold. His mission? To guard the king’s wild familiar, a falcon that is the wellspring of Owyn’s prodigious spellcasting abilities. It’s a lonely life, but what of it? At least out there, sleeping under the moon and stars, Traejon is not so haunted by the harrowing memories of his violent past.

In the Fyngrean capital of Kylden, meanwhile, young Jessalyn Suntold leads a life of luxury and ease. But despite her status as the only heir to her father’s throne, Jess feels forsaken. For she has spent her life pining for a visitor that has never arrived. A familiar of her own, one capable of unlocking her dormant magical abilities so that she might defend herself against Fyngree’s enemies. And now she can see the fear in her father’s eyes—a dread that the centuries-long rule of the Suntold line will come crashing down when he draws his last breath.

Gryphon’s Eye is a classical epic fantasy with a really cool concept. In this world, magic users have “familiars” — animals that share a magical connection with their human partner. The bond that forms between human and familiar is a very deep one, requiring regular contact between the two parties to keep them both in good health. If they are separated for too long, or if one of them dies… Well, both of them would be dead.

There are a few point-of-view characters, but the main two would be Princess Jessalyn Suntold and Traejon Frost.

Jessalyn is pretty much the “princess who wants to go on an adventure” archetype with a bit of extra flavouring. Her father, King Owyn, is a famously powerful sorcerer who protects his kingdom with his magic. In contrast, Jessalyn has no magical talent whatsoever — no matter how many potions her father makes her drink in a misguided attempt to “awaken” her powers. Owyn’s persistence, though fueled by optimism — leads to feelings of adequacy on Jessalyn’s part. Her desire to prove herself is one of the most relatable parts of this novel, and is the spark that drives her actions throughout the story.

Traejon is a “shadow”, which is effectively a ranger tasked with following (and if necessary, protecting) a familiar. In Traejon’s case, this familiar is a falcon named Nomad — who is bonded to King Owyn.

When the beginnings of a plot to overthrow Owyn are uncovered, both Jessalyn and Traejon find themselves caught up in the action that follows. There are secret factions, an invading nation, and evil magical creatures such as cockatrices and gargoyles. Our characters navigate these dangers as they try to learn more about the conspiracy, and about the world that they live in.

But while the concept of the novel sounds great… I couldn’t help but feel like I’d seen it all before. I wasn’t really able to form a connection with any of the characters, and the plot felt a little too linear and familiar to fully engage my interest.

This might be a fun novel for a younger reader, or for someone with less experience in the fantasy genre, but I’m afraid that it just wasn’t for me.

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