author: Mercedes Lackey
series: Mage Wars #2
published: 1 March 1996
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It has been ten years since the magical Cataclysm, which destroyed the twin strongholds of the two world's most powerful Mages, killing Urtho, creator of the gryphons, and sending his forces into exile. Now Urthro's peoples--human and non-human alike live in a terraced city carved into the face of a gleaming white cliff on the edge of the Western Ocean. Secure at least, ...until the fleet of the mysterious Black Kings appears in their harbor, bringing envoys who inform the residents of White Gryphon that their newfound home lies on the northern perimeter of lands claimed by this powerful kingdom. Desperate not to lose their hard won home, Skandranon, along with his longtime friend Amberdrake--agree to accompany the envoys back to the Court of the Black Kings, hoping to negotiate an alliance. ...When a high ranking noble who opposes this alliance is found murdered--Skandranon and Amberdrake realize that they are up against unknown enemies who will stop at nothing, even the use of diabolical Blood Magic, to destroy White Gryphon.
The White Gryphon picks up several years after the end of The Black Gryphon. The war is over and the everyone has fled to different parts of the world. Skan, Drake, Winterhart, and Zaneel have escaped together, along with many others of Urtho’s former realm. They have made their way south through treachorous land and through tremondous magical storms. Magic is still unpredictable at best, but they have found a home and resettled, using magic to build whenever they can. Skan has become a hero and the new city is named after him, White Gryphon, cut into the cliffs over looking the ocean far below.
They have all made a good life for themselves, albeit a hard-fought life. Skan and Zaneel are mates now, as are Drake and Winterhart. Skan and Drake have found themselves the dubious “leaders” of the city and it bores Skan to tears. He is almost grateful when their newfound society seems to be under attack from the Haleigh Kingdom, upon whose land they have unwittingly settled.
Magic is unpredictable and what there is of it has changed. This not only affects how the characters weild it, but it also affects many of the characters themselves. Many of those who had once been powerful mages now found themselves with the magic of the lowest level, if that. Conversely, many of those who once had little magic find themselves able to perform magic that would have been beyond their reach before the change. That is a big part of this novel, the changes in power and dynamics and how many of the characters react to that change.
It also changes the underlying feel of the plot. Yes, there is still magic and fantasy, but the focus was more on the mystery and intrigue that came with the Haileigh people. While Skan and Drake attempt to negotiate with the Haileigh in order to keep their city, it seems that there are those out there that would sooner see them fail. One after another, Skan and Drake seem to be guilty of crimes they both insist they did not commit and the intrigue begins.
While I enjoyed this book, there were a couple things that were a bit offputting for me. For one thing, the female characters really took a back seat to the main cast. They didn’t really have their own stories in this book, almost just acting as props for the male characters. I also felt a little uncomfortable with the way the mystery and intrigue with the Haleigh worked itself out. The faith of the dark-skinned Haileigh prevented change without ceremony and ritual, limiting their willingness to search for the truth when Skan and Drake are accused. They were portrayed to be somewhat backward in their culture, portrayed as almost primitive in their thought processes. It took the paler Gryphon citizens to swoop in and create change. That just felt awkward to me.