The Griffin of Darkwood is an exciting, fanciful story filled with magical phenomena and gothic horror. Will Poppy loves to write stories, but when his mother dies, leaving him an orphan, he bitterly vows never to write again. This proves difficult when he is taken by his horrible Aunt Mauve to live in a big spooky castle, where ideas for stories pop up every time he turns his head: a menacing butler, a secret passage, a magic tapestry, a cat whose eyes change colour. Will soon discovers that the castle holds the key to a centuries-old mystery, and he is the only one who can solve it.
He is helped in his quest by two children from the village: Thom, who wants to be a chef and spends his time making desserts from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (and screwing them up), and Emma, whose dream is to join a circus as an acrobat. Will also befriends Fabian, who has a charming, overcrowded bookstore where characters sometimes escape their books and peek around the corners at customers. Eventually Will learns that the only way to right the wrongs of the past is to turn back to what he does best: writing.
Citra pays homage to popular books of fantasy, with affectionate references to the works of J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. She has a wonderful, endlessly inventive imagination: eccentric characters and magical devices abound. However, Citra introduces a few too many fascinating diversions and then drops them, which causes the story to lose momentum. And Will’s very real grief for his mother seems to get lost in the midst of everything else going on. Despite these drawbacks, The Griffin of Darkwood delivers humour, mystery, and action aplenty. Young readers alight with enthusiasm for magic and haunted castles are sure to enjoy it.