The Nick Bantock Griffin and Sabine books come in two trilogies. The first, The Griffin & Sabine Trilogy , includes Griffin & Sabine, Sabine’s Notebook and The Golden Mean. These three I have read before and were as wonderful as I remembered them. The art is gorgeous and the story is mysterious and fun not to mention the voyeuristic pleasure that comes from opening someone else’s mail.
In the first three books we begin with Griffin, an artist living in London, receiving a mysterious letter from Sabine, an artist living in a tiny island chain so small it doesn’t even appear on a map. Sabine can somehow see Griffin’s art as he creates it. As we follow the correspondence we see friendship and then love grow. Sabine is able to go to London eventually only to find that Griffin has run away. Sabine supposedly stays in Griffin’s apartment but after she leaves and Griffin returns his landlady says she never saw anyone in the apartment at all. But Griffin finds small signs that Sabine really was there. The third book starts to get a little odd. A guy named Froletti shows up and somehow knows about Griffin and Sabine’s letters and their unusual connection. He wants to study the pair but both resist. In the end Griffin and Sabine disappear and no one hears from them until a postcard with a baby on it arrives in Matthew’s mailbox. We don’t know who Matthew is but it doesn’t really matter. Originally and again until I read the fourth book which I did not read the first time around, I thought the baby meant that Griffin and Sabine were living happily together and had a child. I was pleased to end the first three books on such a happy note.
Then we come to the second trilogy, The Morning Star Trilogy. This set includes The Gryphon, Alexandria, and The Morning Star. Right away we learn who Matthew is, a young archeologist from the same islands as Sabine at whose birth she was present. We also learn the baby on the postcard is Matthew, not Griffin and Sabine’s child. Matthew is carrying on a long distance relationship with Isabella and in these books it is mainly their correspondence we read, though both Griffin, but mostly Sabine, write to Matthew and Isabella.
While the first trilogy was charming and mysterious, the second trilogy is just plain weird. Froletti is now after Matthew though he also tries to trap Isabella in a burning bookstore. It is never clear what Froletti is after and why. Nor is it clear why Sabine has a psychic connection with Matthew. Matthew is supposed to do or find something in a dig he is working on in Alexandria, a compass or something. But the whys and whats are not clear. Sabine sends Matthew cryptic letters and postcards that often don’t make sense at all. These three books are so disappointing that I couldn’t bring myself to read the final one because I didn’t trust that it would make any sense. If you have read the final one and think I should too, please, let me know.
The only saving thing about the second trilogy is the art is still utterly gorgeous. It is just too bad the story that was begun in Griffin & Sabine takes a wrong turn in book four and crashes and burns.
If you are thinking of reading these books I’d say definitely read the first three. They are a joy. But stop there. You don’t want to ruin a good story with a bad continuation.