The White Gryphon (1995) is the second book in Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon’s MAGE WARS trilogy, a prequel trilogy in Lackey’s VALDEMAR universe. You’ll probably want to read The Black Gryphon before starting this book (and this review will contain some spoilers for it), but you don’t need to read any other VALDEMAR novels.
In The Black Gryphon we met the gryphon Skandranon and his friend, the healer/therapist Amberdrake. They were trying to help the good mage Urtho win a war against the evil mage Maar. At the end, both mages died, there was a huge blast of magic, and Skan barely escaped through an energy gate. When he did, his black feathers had turned white.
Now it’s ten years later and all the people who had evacuated Urtho’s land have arrived in a new uninhabited land and have been building up a new society. Mostly they have to do this without magic because, ever since that blast at the end of the last book, magic has been unstable and unreliable.
The new city is called White Gryphon and, though it’s run by a city council, the people think of Skan as a king. For his part, Skan enjoys the accolades but doesn’t really care for the daily drudgery of running a city. He’s also worried that he’s getting fat and lazy while living the good life, and that his glory days are over.
Then some strangers arrive on a ship and claim that the new city of White Gryphon is sitting on their land. So, a delegation, including Skan, Amberdrake, Zhaneel, and Winterhart, are sent to appear before the man who claims to be king of the land. When the two clans meet, things go pretty well until murders start occurring. Being foreigners, Skan and Amberdrake are naturally accused. They must solve the mystery and find the real killer before they are charged with murder and the White Gryphon clan is kicked off the land.
The White Gryphon has some of the same issues that The Black Gryphon did — quickly resolved tension, the same sort of sadistic villain who like to torture people that we find in so many Lackey novels, and the same writing quirks (I won’t go over those again). The mystery isn’t clever and it’s pretty obvious who the murderer is, but The White Gryphon is better paced and has a lot more plot than The Black Gryphon did. Therefore, it’s a more entertaining novel.
I listened to the new audio version of The White Gryphon which was read by Gary Furlong. He’s doing a nice job with this trilogy. It’s too bad that Tantor Audio doesn’t (I assume) have the rights to use Jody Lee’s cover art from DAW’s print version of the book. It’s gorgeous, and Tantor’s cover is atrocious. (Is that a flying pig??) The print version of The White Gryphon also has some nice interior illustrations by co-author Larry Dixon.
The final MAGE WARS novel is The Silver Gryphon.