She was only calling for her dog. It was dusk and strange imaginings always occur within centuries-old cemeteries, right? Yet, upon seeing ‘green eyes’ within a huge dark shadow then feeling a blast of ‘hot fetid air’ and the near graze of a ‘sail-sized leathery wing,’ 15-year old Frankie wasn’t so sure this was imagined. When a young stranger ‘wearing fancy dress’ appears out of the dark mist within the old cemetery and speaks, “Did you summons my griffin?” she runs for her life!
These words, spoken in Chapter 1, plunged me excitedly into a cannot-put-down, do-not-want-it-to-end extraordinary story! Julia Hughes has masterfully woven an intricate and thrilling YA fantasy tale of a girl with ordinary teenage issues suddenly being catapulted into an intriguing, perilous adventure involving beings from a twin world called, Ella-Earth. Frankie’s uncanny ability to call forth a griffin and The Rider from this parallel universe will ultimately serve her family’s tragic circumstances in a unique mysterious way. Ms. Hughes must have a very magical muse in her mind whose wisdom to weave such an intelligent and heart-warming story is beyond brilliant.
Frankie is not one of the cool kids at school. Julia Hughes has created a most engaging and fascinating character that appears to be rather ordinary, a girl who is struggling to maneuver through the throes of middle adolescence towards the early side of adulthood. I was delightfully engaged during the segments involving Frankie’s encounters and foibles at her school as she oftentimes reacted to others in either a sassy or a respectful way; with either a fearless or a demure stance. She makes discoveries about friendship and enemies, and the humanness of teachers; and wrestles with a realization that the boy of her dreams might not be one who is human.
So what makes The Griffin Cryer extraordinary? 15-year old Frankie’s coming-of-age maturity is evidenced by her reactions to ordinary yet often, intense, life events yet they are in counterpoint to the daring challenges that she takes on with The Rider and his marvelous griffin. There is a harmonious flow to the script as it moved me to and fro from Frankie’s rich, zesty day-to-day life situations into the perils undertaken with The Rider and his griffin; ones that involve the recovery on earth of the Ella Stone, a crystal powerful enough to protect a membrane that separates Earth from Ella-Earth, keeping both worlds from colliding.
Throughout my read, it often felt as I was in the story itself, walking in Frankie’s shoes. Some of the most vivid, exceptional segments are those between Frankie and her mum; those in which Frankie takes flight with The Rider on the griffin; and those in which her mind descends into her comatose brother’s nightmares, seeking to bring him home from the dream world in which he is lost.
An outstanding story for all who are young at heart, The Griffin Cryer takes center stage on the top shelf of my favorites’ bookcase, alongside Julia Hughes’ other delightful, masterfully written novels. Each excites the kid in me yet also engages my mind in the most interesting, thought-provoking ways.