Raising the Griffin

Raising the Griffin

by Melissa Wyatt

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What’s it really like to be a prince? To his horror, British schoolboy Alex Varenhoff finds out when the monarchy is restored in the tiny country of Rovenia.

“To see, to do, to prevail.” The motto of Rovenia stands for bravery and honor. But none of this matters to Alex Varenhoff. Though he was always aware of his tie to the ancient monarchy,


What’s it really like to be a prince? To his horror, British schoolboy Alex Varenhoff finds out when the monarchy is restored in the tiny country of Rovenia.

“To see, to do, to prevail.” The motto of Rovenia stands for bravery and honor. But none of this matters to Alex Varenhoff. Though he was always aware of his tie to the ancient monarchy, Rovenia tossed out the Varenhoff dynasty long ago, when the Communists took over. But Rovenia now finds itself in need of the leadership of a king.

Alex must leave home in England and assume his role in Rovenia as . . . prince? He’s thrust into a life he was never raised for. Alex hates pomp and circumstance, and the hordes of screaming girls that wait everywhere. And this new life is dangerous, for there are Rovenians who oppose the monarchy. Becoming a true prince presents Alex with a heartbreaking challenge far beyond anything he ever expected, one of the greatest challenges that any Varenhoff has ever had to face.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The product of a comfortable English upbringing, Alex Varenhoff feels shocked and resentful when he is yanked out of his boarding school and sent home-it seems his family has suddenly been recalled to their rightful places as the rulers of Rovenia, a small Eastern European country seized by the Soviets and later governed by communists. Free but impoverished, the country has decided to adopt a constitutional monarchy. Alex, complaining all the way, receives a crash course in royal etiquette, politics and Rovenian history, then moves with his parents to Rovenia. Once there, he finds fault with everything, from the smell of the castle to the isolation from his peers to the throngs of teenage girls who treat him as if he were a rock star. It takes a tragedy for Alex, now Alexei, to understand the notion of service to an ideal. The similarities in plot can't help but evoke Meg Cabot's more effervescent The Princess Diaries, while the setting and themes beg comparison with those of Peter Dickinson's highly nuanced Shadow of a Hero. But the perennial fascination with royalty and celebrity will likely compensate for debut novelist Wyatt's improbable story line, and readers who are having trouble waiting for Princess Mia's newest adventures may be glad enough to spend time with Prince Alexei. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Imagine coming home from school and finding a stranger standing in your house. Imagine that stranger calling you "your royal highness" and then telling you that you are a descendant from the Varenhoff dynasty; you are considered a prince in the Russian country of Rovenia. Alex is an ordinary British kid whose life is turned upside down as he accepts a leadership role as heir to the king. Alex dislikes the attention forced upon him and is concerned about the dangers that his new found fame seems to be initiating. What is even worse is that his own parents have become so caught up in all of the excitement that even they seem unsupportive and indifferent to Alex's concerns. This is an exciting action filled story that is very well told. The reader will have difficulty putting this book down as the drama builds to an unexpected climax and a moving ending. 2004, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, Ages 10 up.
—Denise Daley
When Communism is overthrown in Rovenia, the people establish a constitutional monarchy, in hopes a royal family will attract the attention of tourists and act as a focal point in rebuilding the poor country. Their decision will change the life of Alex Varenhoff, great-grandson of the last ruling Varenhoff. Alex never dreamed his family might be asked back to the country they were cast out of; he would rather be at school in England. Being a royal is even harder than Alex imagined. He is surrounded by bodyguards, monitored by publicists and the press, followed by screaming girls, in danger from people opposed to the monarchy, and angry with his parents for changing his life. His rebellion has the potential to endanger Rovenia's democracy. It takes a tragedy for him to be allowed to choose his own fate. Wyatt provides a realistic portrayal of the trials and choices of a young man forced to face a destiny he thought was buried in the past. Alex's emotions and responses should resonate with young adults living in situations not of their own making. 2004, Wendy Lamb Books, 279 pp., Ages young adult.
—SarahEllen Morrow
A young man born Alexei Nikolas Tibor Ivorovich Varenhoff remembers his grandfather "raising the griffin" as he put the Rovenian flag up on the roof. The Griffin (part lion, part eagle) will fight to the death and survive, which is what Alexei must do when the Rovenian monarchy is restored and he is thrust into the spotlight. One day he is Alex, an English schoolboy, and the next he is the Prince Alexei, heir to the throne of a poor but proud country. His every move impacts his reputation, his family, and his loyal subjects. One beautiful, wild woman seduces him to her advantage, while the steadfast, intelligent Sophy is overlooked. Ultimately his choice to rebel against his parents and the confinement of his position has serious physical and political consequences. The story ends in a perfect spot that calls for a sequel; the unrequited love of Sophy simply must be addressed! Raising the Griffin reads like a modern-day fairy tale and reminded me of the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, where an unsuspecting teenager is put through the rigors of royalty boot camp in order to assume his/her position. The characters ring true in this novel and the pace is nonstop. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Dell, Laurel-Leaf, 279p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Heather Rader
Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Alex, a carefree 16-year-old British schoolboy, discovers suddenly that he is heir to the throne of Rovenia, a former Communist country. The monarchy has been restored and his father wants to return to his homeland to become king. Alex is understandably confused and resents having to leave his familiar life to study Rovenian history and learn his princely duties. He thoughtlessly becomes involved with a beautiful and titled jet-setter with her own agenda. Tragedy strikes in the form of an assassination attempt, forcing Alex to grow up, to admit that he has made serious mistakes, and to acknowledge his responsibility toward Rovenia's citizens. This is not a male version of Meg Cabot's "Princess Diaries" series (HarperCollins), despite its plot similarities. It is a darker, more realistic look at the perils of being a public figure who has to deal with death threats, the paparazzi, and hordes of rabid fans. There are no easy answers in this powerfully affecting novel that avoids clich and the expected fairy-tale ending. The characters, while not always likable, are real and complex, even the secondary ones. This is a compulsively readable book that lingers in the mind long after the final page.-Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wyatt invents an Eastern European country with centuries of history for this pseudo-historical fiction that begins slowly but packs a punch in the second half. Alex Varenhoff's ancestors were the kings of Rovenia, but the dynasty was banished generations ago and Alex has grown up in England. When the Rovenian people vote to restore the monarchy, Alex-suddenly Prince Alexei-is yanked out of school into a new life of royalty. He wants neither the attention nor the pressure of being Prince and belligerently rebels against forced protocol, mobs of screaming fans, and the lack of choice in his new life. Wyatt doesn't use the history she's created as fully as she could, but Alexei's relationships with strict advisor Count deBatz, grounded American friend Sophy, and glamorous temptress Princess Isabelle all inform Alexei as he barely survives an assassination attempt and figures out what it means to serve his country as royalty. (family tree, Rovenian glossary) (Fiction. YA)

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Random House Children's Books
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Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


I crouch low on Drummer's neck, leaning into his rocking gallop. He's mad, tearing across the field at top speed. I can't hold him and I don't try. We pass Herald and overtake Wilkinson, who swears at us, and slow as we go into the wood. Drummer strains up the hill, making it a little easier to pull him up and wait for the others.

"What's our excuse this time?" I say, once we're all gathered on the top of the hill. Below us, the open hillside slopes down to the school, where we were due back from a cross-country ride an hour ago.

"We got lost," Herald says with a shrug.

"Third week in a row?" I ask.

"Collectively, we have a very bad sense of direction." Herald bends over and pulls a thin flask out of his boot.

"Except where pubs are concerned," I say.

Herald opens the flask and takes a swig.

"Tell 'em the truth," Wilkinson says. "Varenhoff here wanted to see that blond barmaid with the big tits again."

"And then was too much of a poncey twit to chat her up." Herald passes the flask to Wilkinson.

"I talked to her!"

"Varenhoff," Herald says, "'Can I have a bag of crisps?' isn't exactly a come-on."

I fiddle with Drummer's reins until he dances sideways. "I didn't want to scare her off."

Wilkinson laughs. "What kind of school did you go to before you came here? A monastery?"

The burning in my face fries coherent thought. It's only a matter of time before Wilkinson finds out he's not far wrong, that my experience with women is practically nonexistent. But like today, in the pub, when they get giggly and start to flirt, my brain seizes up.

"I think someone's on to us." Herald points down the hill, where a dark figure strides across the playing field in our direction. Ransom, our housemaster.

"Blast!" I say.

"Gentlemen," Ransom says as we pull up around him. "Lost again, I see?"

"Yes, sir," Herald says. "We're sick about missing assembly, sir."

"I can imagine." Ransom turns to me. "Headmaster wants to see you in his office, Varenhoff, after you've put your animal away. As for the rest of you, we can discuss your poor navigational skills in my rooms in fifteen minutes." Ransom turns and heads back to the school.

Wilkinson looks at me. "What you been up to?"

"Don't ask me." I've never been called on the carpet before.

We trail up the hill to the stables. I concentrate on stripping off Drummer's saddle and bridle and rubbing him down until his gray coat is smooth and cool.

"You'd think," Herald calls over the partition, "with the amount of money our parents fork over to send us to this labor camp, they could hire a few stable hands."

"At least we can have our horses with us," I say.

When my father decided the local comprehensive school wasn't doing me much good and the family finances could stretch to boarding school, all I cared about was that Redfield was a school where I could bring Drummer. I've had him since he was a yearling, broke him myself, even though my father said I'd never do it and my mother claimed I gave her her first gray hair in the process. But Drummer and I understood each other from the start, and there was no way I was going to go off to school and leave him behind.

"Oh right, Mary Sunshine," Wilkinson shouts from down the aisle. "And the daily privilege of shoveling out their shit. Or is that what you Rooskies are into?"

I shoot a black look in Wilkinson's direction. "I'm not Russian."

That was another part of the appeal. A distant boarding school meant a fresh start in a place where nobody knew who the Varenhoffs were or cared very much if they did. There's too much history with the villagers back home, and I was never able to make any close friends. At least at Redfield, we're more or less equals.

"C'mon, lads." Herald steps out of his horse's stall and latches the door. "What do you think the head wants with you?" he asks as we cross the stable yard to the school.

"Could be he finally realized he made a mistake letting you in." Wilkinson takes a swing at my head. "This is supposed to be an all-male school, gorgeous."

They fall about laughing, banging on each other's backs as we separate in the back hall. I turn toward the head's office, wondering what's up.

The bus from the railway station dumps me in front of the drive to my house. Apparently, the school forgot to tell my parents what train I was on. Nobody was at the station to meet me.

I stare at a pair of iron gates. For as long as I can remember, those gates have rusted in the weeds behind the derelict gatehouse. Now they're fastened to the stone pillars that flank the drive, and locked.

What's going on and how the heck am I supposed to get in? I heave my carryall over the wall and reach for a handhold. I manage to scramble to the top of the wall and drop into the undergrowth on the other side.

I've still got a half-mile walk to the house, hidden from the road by a dense little wood. I huddle into my jacket. It's cold and a wind has kicked up, swirling dead leaves about my feet and rattling the bare branches over my head.

"Ah, yes, Varenhoff," the head had said when I got to his office. "Your parents have rung up to say you're wanted at home immediately. Matron is going into town this afternoon, and you can go along with her and take the four o'clock train."

"Is something wrong, sir?" I asked him. I hadn't been home in four months, but I'd just seen both my parents the week before when they'd come up for Founder's Day.

"Well, they didn't say." He shuffled some papers on his desk. "But I'm sure it's nothing serious and you'll be back with us Monday morning."

Nothing serious. It's nearly dark when I make the final turn and see the house lit up like a cathedral. The light streams through the long, many-paned windows and picks out a line of unfamiliar cars parked along the carriage circle.

A party? Not likely. My parents don't throw many because the place is basically a wreck. A National Trust orphan on loan to our family since the forties, it's been gradually falling to bits about us and has eaten most of the family fortune. I climb the front steps and unlock the door.

We don't have the money for the proper staff. But everything in the entrance hall has been polished and cleaned and repaired and now seems like a ghost of itself, a memory of former glory. Except for stacks of cardboard file boxes and various bits of computer under the stair. Something is up. Maybe we're being evicted, which wouldn't be a bad thing. Living here has always felt like living in a fading photograph.

One thing hasn't changed. It's still bloody freezing. The central heat has never worked properly. But there's something else. Though there's no one about, there's a feel of activity. I cross the hall and look into my father's study.

A young man stands by the far wall, studying a huge map of Europe pinned over the paneling. A hundred crazy possibilities come to mind, images of James Bond and American police shows. Maybe I'm seeing things. I blink, but he's still there.

"Who are you?" I stand in the doorway, ready to run if he reaches for his breast pocket. "What are you doing here?"

He turns and his dark eyes narrow for a moment. He's not big or physically powerful-looking. Not much taller or heavier than me. But he looks . . . capable, trained. Maybe it's the military-short brown hair or the clipped mustache or his severe suit. Stiff as a poker, he walks across the room, stops in front of me and makes a half-bow, bending sharply at the waist and snapping his heels together.

"I am Count Stefan deBatz," he says in an accent like Dracula's. A familiar accent. "At your service, Your Royal Highness."

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Melissa Wyatt lives with her husband and two sons in York, Pennsylvania, where she was born and raised. She's pretty sure she isn't royalty because her sister used to test her by putting peas under her mattress and she never felt a thing. The author lives in Pennsylvania.

From the Paperback edition.

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