One question: are you missing books with animal protagonists, in the style of Richard Adams’s Watership Down or Tad Williams’s Tailchaser’s Song? If that answer is yes, you have an entire new series to read. Jess E. Owen does for griffins what those authors did for rabbits and cats, and it is delightful.
The Summer King Chronicles start with Song of the Summer King. Shard is one of a conquered pride of gryfons dwelling on an island with a Nordic climate. He’s desperate to prove that he is loyal to the king despite being of the race of natives who fought against the incursion; he’s even wingbrother to the king’s son. But the king doesn’t trust him, and that mistrust drives everything that follows. Shard, it seems, has a secret… and he doesn’t even know what it is yet.
The next two books, Skyfire and A Shard of Sun, develop the world and the challenges Shard must move through if he is to become the destined Summer King of the series title. They are significant. They involve dragons, wolves, eagles, lions… and a lot of misunderstandings. There’s a lot of painful history to unravel, and it’s all up to Shard and his friends and family to figure out how to make things right again.
There are a lot of reasons to love these books. They’re billed as “all ages” fare, and they are in the best way: the kind of stories you might have read as a tween that you re-read as an adult and think, “Yeah, that still talks about the fundamental stuff that matters.” They are refreshingly clear-eyed about right and wrong; there are laws of nature, and we don’t get to fight them, and morality often involves the understanding that some things can’t be changed. The antagonists in the story are antagonists: they have reasons for what they do, and the chance for forgiveness and redemption lurks everywhere. And there are a multiplicity of wonderful relationships: family and chosen-family; parents and adoptive parents… romance comes to both youthful striplings and old folks who thought they were past such things, and deep friendships are as important as any of those other types of relationships.
The ecosystem is believably described too. If you hate books where the author doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about when evoking nature, here’s a series you can pick up for relief. Owen’s gryfons are also well-done: their body language, their habits, their biology, all of it is consistent. There’s never a moment where you’re jarred from the narrative because, say, a creature with paws has done something that requires hands.
In short, the only bad thing about this series is that it’s not finished yet. I read the first two books, both of which stop at really appalling points. But Book 3, which is launching in March, brings everything to a good pause before the series is due to conclude in Book 4… and each book has been better than the one before, so I’m confident in recommending them. Right now! So go get them! And here’s the author’s twitter and website, if after you’ve read you want to keep an eye out for Book 4.
Go forth, my friends, and binge-read! You will be rewarded.