I’m about 97 books into the 100 gryphon book reading challenge, but I lost count so I’ve been going back to write short reviews on each and count them up. Yesterday was IVIG Infusion day for me, so I spent the first few hours reading a new book that James Spaid from the Gryphon Pages website recommended to me: Beyond the North Wind by Gillian Bradshaw.

One of my biggest concerns has been for gryphon books that have gone out of print and lack ebook editions. Every so often, you hear about how gryphon novels were so plentiful that in the 1950s other books would joke about how none of them could decide on the same spelling for gryphon, but I’ve had a hard time tracking down all of these lost books.

North Wind isn’t that old, but it fits into that period of time in the ’90s when gryphon books were huge (think of The Black/White/Silver Gryphon trilogy by Mercedes Lackey) but so many of those titles never made it to ebook and the rights lapsed. The Wyrmwood books by Robin Wayne Bailey, the Crossroads books by Nick O’Donohoe, and…. Beyond the North Wind.

This book only has a German paperback and an English hardcover, but I found a lot of used copies online because it was common in school libraries. So if you want a copy, they’re still out there.

What’s special about this book—and the reason James recommended it to me—is that the author spent a lot of time researching the Greek-Scythian myths about gryphons and Arimaspeans. While I’m more of an Egyptian gryphon fan (go team four cat paws!), and I don’t think gryphons have any one true set of defining myths, a lot of how we think about modern gryphons come from this source material.

For those who don’t know, the Scythians told the Greeks that the hills of Siberia were full of gold guarded by gryphons. And those gryphons were at a constant war with a race of one-eyed men, the Arimaspeans, who wanted their gold. Eventually, the Armiaspeans tamed horses, which allowed them to steal the gold and escape, which is why everyone knows that gryphons hate horses and will kill them on sight.

(The poet Virgil later used the image of a horse and gryphon creating offspring, the hippogryph, as an example of impossible love. Because everyone knew gryphons killed horses on sight, they could never fall in love. That’s actually where the hippogryph first shows up. Unlike the gryphon, which sprouted from dozens of different cultures, hippogryphs were invented by one poet.)

Gillian Bradshaw’s Author’s Note for North Wind goes into detail about the fragments of Greek myths and poetry that she used as her reference, and the story does feel like a YA version of a Greek epic by Homer, though written in a much more accessible style. It centers around the search for the people from Beyond the North Wind, but it’s really about one Greek poet who is charged by Apollo with saving the gryphons from the Arimaspeans.

A gryphon dies at the start, so I was a little worried, since I’m only reading these books for the gryphons. But it quickly becomes pro-gryphon, and while there are no gryphon protagonists because it’s told from the Greek guy’s point of view, there are more named gryphon characters than humans or Arimaspeans.

Ultimately, I liked it. I loved seeing the most common gryphon mythology brought to life. This feels like it was a book the author had a great time writing, and I’m sad that it’s been lost to time without an ebook edition.

As my own Author’s Note to this post, if you’re interested in all of the disparate gryphon myths that different cultures came up with, The Book of Gryphons by Joe Nigg is a good starting place. It’s out of print but easy to find a cheap, used copy of. And the cool gryphon insignia under the dust jacket means it’s okay to get a well-loved copy =] And I should give a shout out to the Gryphon Pages online by James Spaid, which recently managed to get a foreword by Joe Nigg. I think every little gryphon fan found the Gryphon Pages the moment their parents let them online, but if you didn’t, there’s a lot of information there.