Rachel Neumeier, 2010
Premise: Kes knows she's different from her sister, from her neighbors. She assumes that she'll always be a bit different, with her quiet ways and her interest in the hills. She assumes that she'll use her herb knowledge to help her sister's horses indefinitely. Then she saw the griffins, and her world was forever changed.
These are not creatures of flesh and blood, but beings of fire and spirit, dangerous and alien. I really liked how the inherent conflict between the fire nature of the griffins and the earth nature of humans played out over the book.
The griffins Kes meets have fabulous personalities: each different, but all fundamentally inhuman.
There is a second plot-line about Bertaud, advisor to the local king, and his attempts to deal with the sudden appearance of the griffins. It took a bit longer to win me over, and I never loved it as much as Kes's plot, even though it is well done.
I mostly just loved the griffins.
The plot was overall strong, and resolved well, but I do feel that one aspect at the very end of the denouement was a thematic misstep. It just made me sad because it was so obvious to me what should happen and it seemed awkward that it played out differently. It could have been much worse, but it left me less than fully satisfied.
Overall, though, I'd call this a wonderful fantasy tale, full of great ideas and great characters, with a unique meditative tone.
4 Stars - A Very Good Book