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on 24 March 2009

"The Crystal Gryphon" is one of my favorite Witch World novels among the many five-star fantasies in this series by Lifetime Grand Master of Fantasy, Andre Norton (Alice Mary North).

Like "Year of the Unicorn," 'Gryphon' takes place in the Dales and wastelands of High Hallack, as opposed to Norton's original Witch World settings of Estcarp and Escore, where Simon Tregarth and his family did battle with out-worlders and evil magic.

The story alternates between Kerovan, lord-heir in Ulmsdale of High Hallack, and Joisan, high-born maid of Ithkrypt in Ithdale of High Hallack, who is wedded to Kerovan by proxy when she is only eight. At first, there are few changes to her life as she will remain with her own kin until of suitable age:


It is so easy to get caught up in Norton's fantasy world. She puts her reader right into the midst of the feasting, mayhem, and magic. It's almost like being set down into the midst of a medieval Book of Hours.

Speaking of magic, when Kerovan's mother was about to give birth to him, she was forced to take shelter in a ruin of the mysterious Old Ones. She was rumored to be of the Old Race herself, and Kerovan was born with hooves instead of normal, human feet. His eyes were the color of butter amber.

Kerovan and Joisan grow up separately, having never met although they are married, and then their world is torn asunder by a strange invasion from the sea (see the original Witch World cycle for more detail about these invaders and their crawling, flame-shooting machines). In the Year of the Moss Wife, when Joisan should have gone to Ulmsdale to take up her wifely duties, she instead learns how to wear mail and wield a light sword. She wears a tiny gryphon in a crystal globe under her mail--a gift from her unknown fiancé.

Meanwhile Kerovan has problems of his own. The keep at Ulmsdale is betrayed to the invaders and he must make his way across the war-torn Dales to Joisan, whose own home has been destroyed. When he finally finds her, she mistakes him for one of the mysterious Old Ones because of his physical peculiarities.

How Kerovan and Joisan gradually come to regard each other, and how they attempt to defeat the dark magic that is arrayed against them forms the main story-line of this wonderful, but incomplete fantasy.

There are two sequels to "The Crystal Gryphon" (1972): "Gryphon in Glory" (1981); and "Gryphon's Eyrie" (1984, written with A. C. Crispin). None of Norton's co-authored books are as good as the ones she wrote by herself, but this is a series that is well worth following to the end.

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on 26 December 2013
The Crystal Gryphon (Witch World Series) . Andre norton a classic author who I first read in the 60's and I am still reading today on Kindle. deep involveing fast and complicated stories that captivate you forever
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on 18 January 2011
I do love a good Norton, and am slowly accumulating as many of her books as I can find. This is the first in a trilogy of books set in High Hallack during the invasion of the Hounds of Alizon, and tells of the connection between the Lady Joisan and her husband Kerovan. Axe-wed to a man she has never seen, Joisan is taunted by her cousin that he is a "monster" - the truth is that Kerovan has been born with cloven hooves instead of feet.

This is the tale of their lives as they grow from childhood to adulthood and finally meet; and the connection between them, a talisman in the shape of a gryphon in a sphere of glass.

The story is told in chunks alternating between Kerovan and Joisan, and each is told in the first person. Although Norton is too skilled to let it get overly confusing, I find it a little dislocating as each time we start a new part of the story we have to dissociate ourselves from the previous "I" and move our point of view to the other.

I have already read the second book in the series and so of course will try the third; but whether these join the Norton section on my shelf or are passed on as a bit too dislocated to reread is still open to question.

In short, they are good books and each of the two in the trilogy that I have read stands as a story in itself; but you don't get the full immersion in the their world that is usually a hallmark of Norton. Though I like the story, I would say that if the choice is between these and others in the WitchWorld series, you'll probably get more deeply involved in some of the others.
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on 24 January 2013
I discovered Andre Norton in the early 70's when I was literally bewitched by the first three Witch World books of Simon Tregarth and his offspring in Escarp. This book is much later and part of the Escore saga, the blighted land to the east of Escarp and follows the adventures of a young girl and her flight from invaders and her search for her husband whom she has never met having been betrothed in childhood. The Crystal Gryphon in the title is a bauble send by her husband to her and its magic helps to guide her and her party in the ensuing flight across a dangerous and magic laden land. Will she find him, will he still want her? Recommended for all lovers of Andre Norton and Science Fiction/Fantasy fanatics.
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on 22 May 2013
A great story want more. An intriguing tale of romance and duty. Shades of Tolken. Going to start the next part NOW
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on 16 January 2015
Brilliant read, love everything by Andre Norton.
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on 22 December 2015
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