Title ~ Hoarfrost (Whyborne & Griffin # 6)
Author ~ Jordan L. Hawk
Published ~ 21st April 2015
Genre ~ Paranormal, Historical, Mystery MM Romance,
Sorcerer Percival Endicott Whyborne and his husband Griffin Flaherty have enjoyed an unprecedented stretch of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, the calm is shattered by the arrival of a package from Griffin’s brother Jack, who has uncovered a strange artifact while digging for gold in Alaska. The discovery of a previously unknown civilization could revive the career of their friend Dr. Christine Putnam—or it might kill them all, if the hints of dark sorcery surrounding the find are true. With Christine and her fiancé Iskander, Whyborne and Griffin must journey to the farthest reaches of the arctic to stop an ancient evil from claiming the life of Griffin’s brother. But in the rough mining camp of Hoarfrost, secrets fly as thickly as the snow, and Whyborne isn’t the only sorcerer drawn by the rumors of magic. Amidst a wilderness of ice and stone, Griffin must either face his greatest fear—or lose everyone he loves.
I wish I could give six stars, nay ten stars, to each and every book I’ve read by Jordan L. Hawk.
Ms. Hawk’s books are not great classic literature, nor do they purport to be. They are rollicking, over-the-top, supernatural thrillers featuring some of the most endearing, unique, inventive, breath-stealing, moving and insanely gay characters in all of literature.
Is “Hoarfrost” credible, believable, realistic? Not on your life. Like all the great fantasy, science fiction and paranormal literature, it requires an immediate suspension of disbelief. That suspension of disbelief is easy to come by, because the characters, their motivations, their feelings, their rich, unique personalities are so very real.
Placed at the turn of the 20th Century, “Hoarfrost” takes us and its protagonists, villains and monsters, to the cold north of Alaska’s Yukon in the waning days of the Gold Rush.
For those who may not be familiar with these characters, Griffin is a former Pinkerton detective who was committed to an insane asylum after he saw his partner (and sometimes lover) eaten alive by acid secreted by some kind of amorphous monster, deep in a basement beneath the streets of Chicago.
Whyborne is the son of a fabulously wealthy family who repudiated his legacy to build a life of the mind – as the primary linguist in a renowned museum in Widdershins, a small (and strange) town in the Northeast. He specializes in translating long-extinct writing in ancient manuscripts, books, scrolls and tablets. In the process of translating one such “booklet”, he discovers not just spells, but his own surprising power to invoke them. He has become quite adept at his powers, over time, including control over fire, water and wind (unusual to draw the power of all three), and the mild-mannered, humble academic becomes a power to be reckoned with, whose skills have saved the innocent time and time again. In fact, in the last installment in the “Whyborne and Griffin” series, he taps into the essential power of the world to save all of Widdershins from imminent destruction.
What makes all this power and arcana interesting and often moving, is that Griffin and Whyborne are not just friends. They were lovers, and now husbands, at a time nearly a century before such a thing as same-sex marriage existed. They work together, the detective and the shy, retiring sorcerer, to bring malefactors, evil forces, monsters and humans who are forever trying to grab the power of the paranormal for their own evil purposes, to justice and save the world. One of the most endearing themes of Ms. Hawk’s iconic series is how powerful the shy academic is, in contrast to the athletic and trained Griffin, who is adept, not with spells, but with firearms and his infamous knife-cane.
On the other hand, the couple is bound by two strong forces. In their own way, each is a dedicated detective (one who detects bad people, the other detects the threats buried in ancient manuscripts and spells), and their love, so absolute that each would give his life for the other.
That makes this series not just a collection of great thrillers, but an enduring epic of deep love and commitment between two men, despite the forces arrayed against them by family, state and religion. Their triumph is not just a triumph over evil, but a triumph over intolerance and bigotry. Their strongest weapon in the battle for equality is their unflinching love.
The plot is as convoluted as every other Whyborne & Griffin story. Lured to Alaska by Griffin’s long-lost brother (Jack) and his discovery of an ancient stele while prospecting for gold, Whyborne, Griffin, Christine and Eskander hop a train, ship and dog sled to the Yukon Territory. Christine is a fellow-scholar at the museum in which Whyborne works, a prototypical feminist whose great feats (including her world-renowned discovery of a famed Pharaoh’s tomb) come despite the denigration, disrespect and, occasional sabotage of her male-chauvinist peers. She is a devoted friend and ally of both Whyborne and Griffin, and participates, rifle-in-hand, in all of their perilous adventures. Eskander is the scion of an ancient Egyptian line of hunters who have spent centuries chasing and killing “ghuls” (ghouls, in today’s parlance) to save the world from these execrable and violent monsters. As the book opens, Eskander and Christine have fallen in love and plan to marry.
Regrettably, all is not as it seems. In fact Jack, and his partner and friend, Nicholas, are out to find a city, beneath the nearby glacier, that predates known human history by thousands of years. His goal: to steal one of the chrysalises secreted in its chambers, to harness the power of the monster within to demonstrate his power and dominate a large part of the world. He’s lured Whyborne there to use his powers to break the seal that protects the world from the monsters within the secret city, and to protect himself. You see, Whyborne discovered, in the last couple of Whyborne & Griffin books, that the reason he’s such a powerful sorcerer is that he’s not entirely human. In fact, he’s half-human. The other half, his mother’s side, came from a vast city beneath the sea, a race that is an ally of the monsters within the hidden city. They will not harm him, and Nicholas plans to use Whyborne as his protection from the demons while he raids their lair.
I won’t belabor the twists and turns of the plot, since part of the great joy of reading a Jordan Hawk book is discovering them on your own. Suffice it to say that mayhem ensues, much magic is brought to bear, both for good and evil, and our intrepid adventurers do survive to fight another day.
What did surprise and move me, was Ms. Hawk’s use of the monsters as metaphor. They are not used to show the worst and most violent propensities of humankind, but to demonstrate the underlying love, loyalty and common aspirations of those we deem monsters, just because they’re different than we are. One of the most profoundly moving moments of “Hoarfrost” is toward the end, when the matriarch of the monster hoard reaches out to the interlopers and envelops them in her love and gratitude. The moment is truly beautiful, and reminds us of the universal love of all creatures for their families.
That metaphor makes this more Griffin’s book than Whyborne’s. His face-to-face confrontation with the monsters in the secret city, the same monsters who killed his partner, helps him move on from his nightmares, his worst fears and even, perhaps, his estrangement from the family that turned their backs on him when they discovered Griffin was gay.
Ms. Hawk is a truly remarkably talented author. Her plots, action, dialog and settings are amongst the best I’ve ever read. Her over-the-top, supernatural themes are made real through her insight into the human condition and the love that binds us together - if we’re lucky. And she is positively brilliant at the highly-detailed, colorful and thorough depictions of even the most secondary characters. She is a great writer.
I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of paranormal gay fiction. But the sheer humanity that Ms. Hawk brings to her books has made me a fan for life. She never disappoints.
If you’re looking for a few hours of pure reading pleasure, escapism with a touch of universal themes, a few hot sex scenes, beautiful and unapologetic love, then you must not miss “Hoarfrost”, or any other Whyborne & Griffin novel. This unique and inventive pair has, quite justifiably, earned their place as icons of gay literature.
So do yourself a favor and run, don’t walk, to read this one. If you’ve never read any of the books in this series, start with the first of them, “Widdershins”, and work your way through the rest. You don’t have to, you can read “Hoarfrost” on its own, but it will be a much richer experience if you’ve read the preceding books in the series. In either case, I promise, you will have a great time reading “Hoarfrost”. I know I did, and I can’t wait for the next book in the Whyborne & Griffin series – or, for that matter, any other Jordan L. Hawk book.
Series Reading Order
The Whyborne & Griffin series:
Widdershins (Book 1)
Threshold (Book 2)
Stormhaven (Book 3)
Necropolis (Book 4)
Bloodline (Book 5)
Hoarfrost (Book 6)
Connect with the Author
Jordan L. Hawk grew up in the wilds of North Carolina, where she was raised on stories of haints and mountain magic by her bootlegging granny and single mother. After using a silver knife in the light of a full moon to summon her true love, she turned her talents to spinning tales. She weaves together couples who need to fall in love, then throws in some evil sorcerers and undead just to make sure they want it bad enough. In Jordan’s world, love might conquer all, but it just as easily could end up in the grave.