Thursday, March 24, 2011

Griffin Rising by Darby Karchut

Thursday, March 24, 2011

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.

But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever. It is their father-and-son relationship, sometimes turbulent, often hilarious, always affectionate, that sings through the story like a pure note.

Masquerading as the average teen next door, Griffin struggles to learn his trade, navigate the ups and downs of modern life among humans (including falling in love with the girl next door), and prepare for the ancient trial-by-combat every apprentice must pass at sixteen or be forced to become mortal. (Publisher's summary from Goodreads)

I am not immune to cover lust. However, sometimes a really great book does not come in a lust worthy package, and while I do not dislike the cover of Griffin Rising, it is not a cover that would normally grab my attention shouting, “read me!” So I am happy that author Darby Karchut contacted me about her debut novel because I might have missed the beginning of a well-crafted and extremely enjoyable new series.

One of the first things that made this book unique was Karchut’s angel mythology. I was quite fascinated with her explanations about the angels’ caste system.  I loved learning about how the Terrae Angeli become the guardians of mankind, through their training with mentors. What really struck me about this aspect of the book though was how seamlessly Karchut integrated the angel lore, with the rest of the plot.  One way she did this is by combing both third person point of view with first person journal entries.  The journal entries provide important insights into Griffin’s, Basil’s, and Katie’s personalities, and offset the distance I often feel third person POV creates.

But what truly makes this a completely engaging story are Karchut’s wonderful characters. On the surface Griffin is an average 13 year-old boy with the exception of him being an earth bound angel-in-training. His past mentor’s abusive training tactics, has left him scared, insecure, and closed off. Through patience, humor, and affection Basil, Griffin’s new mentor, not only teachers him to overcome his insecurities, and use his elemental powers successfully, but also how to trust himself and others. Basil even helps Griffin navigate the treacherous waters of first love. Both Katie and Griffin’s romantic feelings are adorably na├»ve and charmingly believable. Even Karchut’s secondary characters, from Katie’s protective yet open minded and supportive parents, to Griffin’s abusive and narcissistic mentor, Nicopolis, are effectively written and more than mere stereo-typical fillers.

Between the Griffin’s and Katie’s romance, Basil’s fatherly and sage mentoring, and Griffin’s determination to overcome his past failures to become a Guardian, Griffin Rising is an exciting and heart-warming story. I am really glad I didn’t miss this well-written debut novel and will be looking forward to reading the next book in this series. 

Source: Received book from author for review
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