Prairie Books NOW Interview & Review - The Griffin of Darkwood

Reviewed by: Amanda Sanders for Prairie Books NOW

Losing his will

Citra explores loss, adventure and mystery in new novel

Will Poppy is a boy with an extraordinary writing talent, that is, until his author mother unexpectedly passes away. Forced to live with his horrid Aunt Mauve, and mourning his mother, Will loses all desire to write.

Becky Citra tells a story of loss, adventure, and mystery in The Griffin of Darkwood. The adventure begins when Will and Mauve leave the city and head to Sparrowhawk, a tiny town with a castle, Sparrowhawk Hall, which Mauve has purchases - complete with "two loyal servants" - as if she were under a spell. That spell is just a taste of the magic that lives in Sparrowhawk.

Mauve is a nasty character, and Citra believes every fantasy story requires a villain. "In 'real life,' of course, no one is all good or all bad, but in a fantasy it's fun to have a truly wicked character," she says. The author contrasted Will's deceased mother, Adrienna, who is kind, gentle, and loving, with Aunt Mauve, who is conniving, grasping, and spiteful, to give the reader more reason to feel sympathetic twoards Will and his situation.

Once Will and Mauve arrive in Sparrowhawk, they feel distinctly unwelcome (the words "GO AWAY" are painted on the front door), but Will is fortunate enough to make two friends quickly - Thom and Emma. They, and a cast of eccentric characters such as the poet Vespera Moonstone and the bookseller Favian Longstaff, help Will learn all about Sparrowhawk and Sparrowhawk Hall, and the mysteries surrounding the "curse" on the hall - it seems something horrible happens whenever someone lives there. 

Together, Thom, Emma, and Will explore the castle and the history of Sparrowhawk, discovering how medieval tapestries, including a piece with the words, "The Griffin of Darkword [sic]," unlock the mysteries of the weird noises and ghostly presences. Citra states that the starting point for developing the plot was the idea of medieval tapestries telling a story.

This is a book about story and writers and writing. Even though Will doesn't feel like even opening his writing book with the emerald cover, both his muse, a knight, and Adrienna's muse, an ancient Greek woman in a long white dress and with green leaves in her hair, won't leave him alone. Citra says she is also fortunate enough to have muses.

"They are the children that I taught during my career as an elementary school teacher," she says. "We shared hundreds of books together as one of my favourite times of the school day was story time.

"I have retired from teaching now, but when I write I am inspired by those children - their interests, what they loved about books, what sparked their imagination. I love the opportunities I have to visit schools and libraries to talk about my books and reconnect with students."

The Griffin of Darkwood will capture the imaginations of young readers with its adventure, mystery, magic, and adversity.

Citra says, "To make a story interesting and suspenseful, the characters must face obstacles. The solution for Will could not be easy."

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