Feral Fantasy Author

Tag: Gryphons

Starling is available now!

The cover of Starling featuring a petrel gryphon lost in the bog surrounded by infected starlings.

Starling, the third book in the Gryphon Insurrection, has taken flight! Abandoned ruins, old enemies, new friends, and… tasty fish? Spread the news!

Buy it now!

Gryphon Profile: Hatzel

One of my favorite gryphons from Eyrie who never gets any cover love is Hatzel, so I reached out to Sydney Moncrief who sometimes does concept art work for me and asked if she’d take a stab at bringing Hatzel to life.

Hatzel was the first gryphon I created after Zeph. She’s there in the second scene and serves as a calm, responsible foil for the other characters. While being a strong, smart leader is core to her character, I wanted her to visually be a more prehistoric design than most gryphons. She should be scary when she wants to look imposing.

I’d been studying wingspan lengths in living creatures to get a feel for how big an animal could be and still fly. For the pterosaur (think pterodactyl or pteronadon) Hatzegopteryx, the answer was… well, the size of a giraffe. For raptors, Haast’s eagle had a wingspan around 9 feet and hunted moa, essentially giant ostriches. To say both animals inspired Hatzel’s name is spot on.

When I first sketched Hatzel, I knew there was a jag in her beak, but it became more pronounced as I wrote. Haast’s eagle went extinct a couple hundred years ago, so that got me thinking about prehistoric birds and cats not normally used in gryphon creation. I began to wonder if I could pronounce the beak jag into something even more fierce, reminiscent of a saber-toothed tiger.

Since her coloring has always been dark, “nearly black below the canopy where the light doesn’t reach,” I was worried about comparisons with Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon’s Skandranon, the eponymous Black Gryphon from the famous Valdemar books. I asked Sydney to consider the cooper’s hawk (Zeph) and magpie (Xavi) gryphons of her pride and add a little hint of each, hence the white highlights.

I’ve been using the term “saberbeak” to refer to Hatzel’s gryphon species. Where a lot of the gryphon prides in Eyrie are composed of similar species—harpy eagles for Merin’s, kakapo for the Parrotface Pride, Shrikes/Caracals for the kjarr and bog prides—I wanted Hatzel’s pride to be a mix of several smaller prides that couldn’t stand on their own.

I might delve into Hatzel’s back story more in a short story one of these days if people are interested. I feel like back story in novels is fluid: I come up with something detailed for every character and use that to influence my writing of their scenes, but it’s not set in stone until I commit it to writing that other people see.

Bonus Trivia! Another design I considered for Hatzel, one that would have emphasized her size even more, used a terror bird as her front half instead of a Haast’s eagle. Unfortunately, being flightless, that gave her smaller wings. Here’s Sydney’s rendition of a smilodon + terror bird gryphon. What do you think?

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