Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones Science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsYear of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones Science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsYear of the Griffin (2000) is a sequel (of sorts) to Diana Wynne JonesDark Lord of Derkholm, a satirical fantasy aimed at children and young adults, but just as enjoyable for grown-ups. Year of the Griffin is different — it’s not a satire and, for that reason, probably isn’t as appealing to adults, but I still enjoyed it. It’s what I like to call a boarding school fantasy, in the vein of HARRY POTTER. You don’t need to read Dark Lord of Derkholm first.

Year of the Griffin begins eight years after the events of Dark Lord of Derkholm and stars one of Derk’s children — the griffin named Elda, who Derk created in his lab and adopted. Elda wants to be a wizard, so she has enrolled (without Derk’s knowledge) in the Wizard’s University, a school that suffered under Mr. Chesney’s reign and is desperately lacking in funds and experienced teachers.

At school, Elda makes friends with several other young wizards-in-the-making and together they attend classes, try to learn from their eccentric teachers (some who are more interested in their own research than in teaching students), and deal with threats to the school and themselves.

The kids are diverse, likeable, and fairly well-developed. Most of them are hiding something about themselves or their circumstances and it’s sweet to watch them learn to trust each other and begin working together to solve problems. (None of their problems are as dark as Harry Potter’s.) Their solutions are often funny and the action moves along at a merry pace. Fans of Dark Lord of Derkholm will be pleased to see some of Elda’s family, including Derk, arrive for a visit.

Tantor Audio’s 2018 production of Year of the Griffin is narrated by Gemma Dawson, who’s fabulous. I loved her performance.

Published in 2000. It is eight years after the tours from offworld have stopped. High Chancellor Querida has retired, leaving Wizard Corkoran in charge of the Wizards’ University. Although Wizard Corkoran’s obsession is to be the first man on the moon and most of his time is devoted to this project, he decides he will teach the new first-years himself in hopes of currying the favor of the new students’ families – for surely they must all come from wealthy, important families – and obtaining money for the university (which it so desperately needs). But Wizard Corkoran is dismayed to discover that one of those students – indeed, one he had such high hopes for, Wizard Derk’s own daughter, Elda – is a huge golden griffin and that none of the others has any money at all. Wizard Corkoran’s money-making scheme backfires, and when Elda and her new friends start working magic on their own, the schemes go wronger still. And when, at length, Elda ropes in her brothers, Kit and Blade, to send Corkoran to the moon…well…life at the Wizards’ University spins magically and magnificently out of control.

diana wynne jones derkholm review dark lord of derkholm diana wynne jones derkholm review year of the griffin


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

    View all posts