Book – The Gyphon King's Consort
Author – Jenn Burke
Star rating - ★★★☆☆
No. of Pages – 210
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 3rd person, dual POV
Would I read it again – No.
Genre – Romance, LGBT, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Gryphon, Arranged Marriage
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
* This story is part of the Dreamspun Beyond Collection. All stories are standalone, but connected by theme. *
Okay, this is a hard review to write, because I'm of such two minds about it. Parts of me liked parts of it, but other parts of me had some real issues. Although I wouldn't read it again, there were things I enjoyed about it, just not enough to make it a re-read. And, while I did contemplate not finishing it a couple of times, I'm glad I did, because there were some small improvements in the second half that offered some redemption for the mistakes in the first half.
However, saying that, my original review – my first draft – was three pages of negative notes that I'd taken while reading. I'm going to try to whittle them down to the most important facts and be as brief as possible.
I had serious issues with the “sneak peek”. Not just that it was there – I want to read a book I'm holding, not have spoilers given before I've even started, thank you very much – but the choice of spoiler was a HUGE issue. It's ½ a page, wedged between the Contents and Acknowledgments. To be brief, the scene is stolen from 89% of the story and is a huge moment for the MC's. It's meant to be emotional, hard-hitting, intense and pivotal, but it's ruined by this completely unnecessary “sneak peek”.
There was a huge disconnect, for me, emotionally. I can't explain why, but it probably had something to do with the fact that I didn't like Eirian, one of the MC's, who had half the book in his POV, and acted completely irrationally. I found him arrogant, selfish, juvenile, and unlikable right from page one, and it really put me at an emotional distance from the book that remained there throughout.
Let's get him out the way, shall we? He was supposed to be an adult, a successful restauranteur, but he acted more like a teenager. Despite being a modernist, he had no respect for tradition or those that believed in it. He didn't once try to understand Luca's position, yet Luca was a King and open to hearing opposing ideas and respected Eirian for his beliefs, even if he couldn't always agree with them. Eirian is a bull in a china shop, barging into every decision like a child throwing a tantrum. He admits – several times – that he only went against Luca (and ended up getting hurt for it or hurting someone else) because Luca asked him not to do it in the first place. He's selfish and short-sighted, with no maturity whatsoever.
The story is not, as it presents, a fantasy. Fantasies have their own world, world building, and are barely recognisable to humans, etc. This is an Urban Fantasy, at best. It's in the human world, humans co-exist with the...animals? Beings? Whatever they are, they all co-exist together. It's also part Alternative History, because it tells us that these beings came out into the human world, exposing themselves to reality, in the 1700's. So, there was a real mix and confusion over genre, here.
Gryphons are supposed to be the central “creatures”, if you will, of the story. However, they're not. They really, really are not. They're basically a mix of shifter and dragon. There are perhaps two instances of characters shifting into gryphons, but about eight of the gryphons shifting into lions. Why not just make them lions? It would have been simpler and easier to understand, with the same dynamics allowed. I felt like the whole gryphon idea was a cop-out, to find a new creature that others hadn't done to death within the shifter world. It just didn't work. It was far too loosely held together and the story focused way too heavily on the fact that Eirian and Luca could shift into lions.
NO CLEAR DESCRIPTIONS
I spent half of the book not sure what I was reading, because there was such widespread lack of appropriate description within the story.
Example 1: Eirian had a mid-shift moment, at 7%, which was described as “had slipped toward his feline form”. EXCUSE ME? Feline? For a gryphon? Nope. ← That right there was my reaction. Because we didn't know that gryphons could take *multiple* forms until 15%, when it's stated “their impressive ability to shift into multiple forms”. Well, now that whole feline thing makes sense! But it took a whole 8% for it to be explained.
Example 2: they leave they airport and arrive at the King's home, but since they're gryphons who can fly and there is no exploration or explanation of their travel from the airport to the house, I believed this was their mode of transport until - “Something tapped the window.” and “standing next to the car” were introduced. Then, suddenly, it all made sense. But it took 3 pages to find out there was ever a car involved.
Example 3: it states at 8% “he was vaguely thankful Ivo was both clothes and, unlike many of his kin, not walking around...” (for the sake of being able to post my review, I'm leaving that at naked, but you get the idea). However, readers don't, because there is no concept of “his kin” or what it might mean. He's clearly not gryphon, because there's been NO mention of them walking around naked before now, or of what species, breed or kind of creature Ivo might be. That comes at 18% when we're told, vaguely, what it *might* mean - “shifters frequently walked around in various stages of undress.” Cool. Would have been nice to know that when it counted.
Yet, in contrast, there is a huge emphasis on what kind of clothes people wear, the style, the colour, and everything. Also, a lot of info dumps about the history and heritage of gryphons and other beings. In this book, they're called Mythos – probably from the whole “mythological creature” idea. But, it shows a complete disparity in writing. There is too much focus on the small details of clothing, too many info dumps that are repeated – given naturally at first, then repeated later to introduce new information about the same subject – while offering very little in the way of actual, necessary information about the Mythos and world building.
For me, the plot followed a paint-by-numbers recount of exactly what is written in the blurb. Which gave away too much and left no surprises. Eirian acts like a child for most of the book, with his own best friend telling him so, and never really redeems himself. Luca, for me, saved it a little, because he was relatable, reasonable and logical, both as a character and as a King. He made sense to me.
There were moments when Luca and Eirian were together – they weren't in danger, they weren't fighting, they were completely alone – and it was sweet. They worked. They gelled. They had chemistry. Then someone else joined the moment, interrupted, or they moved into a populated area and it all went to pot. Alone, these two had potential, when they weren't clawing at each other's throats, but at any other time they were just too self absorbed and too concerned with politics to make a believable couple.
It's not enemies to lovers, or friends to lovers, or even strangers to lovers. It's simply two strangers thrown together for a politically important arranged marriage, who attempt to build a life out of nothing. And, more often than not, it reads as impersonal as it sounds.
With the addition of issues concerning over exaggerated reactions from both characters, contradictions within the writing as to what the gryphons were and weren't capable of, and what their history was, alongside problems of repetition and plot gaps, there really were just too many issues to counteract the good parts.
There was potential, a little chemistry, and enough of a plot to make it interesting. But it's not something that I'd come back to. It isn't something that I can honestly say I enjoyed. I liked about half of it, which sadly wasn't enough to warrant even a warm glow, or fuzzy feeling, at the end.