CM Magazine Review - The Griffin of Darkwood
Reviewed by: Vasso Tassiopoulos
Becky Citra’s The Griffin of Darkwood is a fantasy story about a 12-year-old, Will Poppy, who becomes orphaned and gradually finds himself in a journey of unearthing the significance of his family history. After his mother’s abrupt death, Will is sent to live with his cruel and negligent Aunt Mauve. The last of Will’s familiar surroundings disappear when Aunt Mauve suddenly buys a castle and moves them from the city to live in a country estate called Sparrowhawk Hall. There they are met by and must live with two unusually inadequate and cruel servants, Mr. and Mrs. Cherry. Within the castle walls Will is sent to sleep in the castle tower where he comes to piece together how the castle is tied to his lineage.
The story carries the theme of the power of writing and art. Will and his mother were both writers, and with his mother’s passing, Will has stopped writing. He is left with her empty pencil box which occasionally glows with a mysterious light. He is also often followed by his, and his mother’s, writing Muses, but he refuses to write considering his circumstances. Another mystery Will tries to piece together is whether his mother’s publisher, Mr. Barnaby, has decided to publish her book, The Magical Night. Many of his suspicions revolve around Aunt Mauve, who hides mail from him, as well as the cruel Cherrys. Another object Will holds onto is a box sent to him from his old neighbour Mrs. Ginny, a box which contains a photo of his mother as a young girl with her parents as well as a woven piece of cloth with the words “the Griffin of Darkwood”. This cloth leads to the story of magical tapestries hidden within the castle walls and their connection to Will’s family.
Citra creates many magical, mysterious, and relatable characters within The Griffin of Darkwood. As Will uncovers his family history, he also makes two friends his age. One is the adventurous Emma, who is often followed by her dog Peaches, and the second is the cautious, culinary perfectionist Thom. Will also receives help from Favian Longstaff, the owner of a magical bookshop where characters from beloved stories magically appear within its aisles. While eating many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout their journey, Will and his young friends come to uncover the secrets of Sparrowhawk Hall and its connection to Will’s family.
The Griffin of Darkwood is a story filled with magic, mystery, and imagination. Enthusiastic fantasy readers will enjoy the story’s gothic castle setting and the way in which its characters come to uncover its secret passageways. Citra’s determined young heroes and their camaraderie will resonate with young readers. Readers will also be easily engaged in a setting that transcends time and is full of imaginative and unusual characters. The story also carries the positive and motivational message of the healing power of writing in times of need.