Series Title: The Gryphonpike Chronicles
Omnibus Edition: The Barrows
Books: Witch Hunt, Twice Drowned Dragon, A Stone’s Throw, Dead of Knight
Publisher: Doomed Muse Press
Author: Annie Bellet
Price: free to $3.99
Her name is Killer — or, at least, that is what people call her. Once, she was an Elemental Elf, one of the ancient beings who sang the world into being. Then grief and pride led her to corrupt her own song, and she brought misery and destruction to the elemental realm. As punishment, she was stripped of her voice and immortality and sent to the mortal realm. Now mute, she must perform one thousand heroic acts to regain her rightful place.
And so Killer finds herself part of a motley crew of adventurers: Makha, a human paladin; her half-winter orc husband Azyrin, the shaman; Drake, the swordsman who hails from southern lands; and Rahiel the pixie-goblin sorceress who flies around on a miniature unicorn named Bill. As they travel through The Barrows, they encounter cursed villages, ancient ruins, undead dragons, necromancers, ghosts, monstrous wolves, and plain folk just trying to survive and provide for their families. With each monster defeated and each life saved, Killer draws that much closer to her goal … assuming that she wants to return home ….
Bellet is a fantastic storyteller. There are fights aplenty and narrow escapes. The characters grow and change and discover new things about themselves and one another. I also love how she takes the tropes of D&D and high fantasy — like the band of adventurers — and simultaneously exploits them and turns them on their head. Orcs, for example, are supposed to be bloodthirsty barbarians. In contrast, Azyrin is cultured and honorable, a devotee of the Storm God, bound to help any who need him. Rahiel, as a pixie-goblin hybrid, loves sparkles and glitter, but also likes to set things on fire and blow stuff up.
The theology of the series is also, not surprisingly, polytheistic. The Goddess Thunla and her unicorn consort Billarhian are widely worshipped, apparently by both humans and other species. Other Deities, such as the Storm Lord and the Summer Lady, seem to be specific to certain groups, but there is no evidence of religious jealousy or attempts as proselytization.
I first discovered Annie Bellet in the Nine By Night box set, which includes the first book in her Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. I loved it, and immediately began to look for more of her work. When I discovered that Witch Hunt, the first story in The Gryphonpike Chronicles, was free, I downloaded it, loved it — and then couldn’t find any more books in the series.
Happily, three more stories are now available, both as individual digital files and as an omnibus edition. The price is roughly equivalent, either way. If you’re curious, I recommend that you download the free edition of Witch Hunt. If you like it (and you will!), you can then either pick-up the individual stories or download the whole thing in the omnibus format.
I really really hope that Bellet writes more stories for these characters. I want to know more about all of them — and I want to know where they got that pearl, gosh darn it!
Highly recommended to fans of Shannon Mayer, CSE Cooney, Sarah Avery, Jolene Dawe, Juli D Revezzo, Lindsey Buroker, and Catherynne M Valente.