by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten
Song of the Summer King, by Jess E. Owen. Map.
Whitefish, MT, Five Elements Press, July 2012, hardcover $30.00 ([viii +] 246 [+2] pages), paperback $12.99, Kindle $4.99.
“Shard is a gryfon in danger. He and other young males of the Silver Isles are old enough to fly, hunt, and fight–old enough to be threats to their ruler, the red gryfon king. In the midst of the dangerous initiation hunt, Shard takes the unexpected advice of a strange she-wolf who seeks him out, and hints that Shard’s past isn’t all that it seems. To learn his past, Shard must abandon the future he wants and make allies of those the gryfons call enemies. When the gryfon king declares open war on the wolves, it throws Shard’s past and uncertain future into the turmoil between. Now with battle lines drawn, Shard must decide whether to fight beside his king . . .or against him.” (blurb)
The beginning of the first volume of Owen’s The Summer King Chronicles tetralogy is reminiscent of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. “Fresh morning air lifted clouds and gulls above the glimmering sea, and drew one young gryfon early from his den. Too early, just before sunrise when forbidden darkness still blanketed the islands.” (p. 1)
Shard, a young gryphon, has sneaked out from his cave on Sun Isle early to get some additional flying practice. It’s not for the pure glory of flying, though. Shard is a native of the Silver Isles, conquered a generation ago by the gryfon Sverin the Red King and his Aesir.
“‘The king comes,’ said the older gryfon. Halvden [the son of one of Sverin’s advisors] blinked and spun as they all perked ears toward the king’s rocks. The king glided in from his morning flight, massive wings flaring, stirring the grass as he landed on the top of his rocks.
The largest of the pride, Sverin-son-of-Per looked every bit a king. He wore gold, crusted with emerald and sparkling catseye, around his neck, and golden bands clamped to his forelegs just above the spread of black talons. Tokens from Sverin’s grandfather’s war with dragons in the farthest arctic lands across the sea. The dawn outlined his copper flanks, throwing sheen across the scarlet feathers of his shoulders and the deep crimson of his face.” (p. 7)