Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones
Year of the Griffin (2000) is a sequel (of sorts) to Diana Wynne Jones’ Dark 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.