First Rider's Call (The Green Rider, #2) and The High King's tome (#3) By Kristen Britain

First Rider's Call  - Kristen Britain The High King's Tomb  - Kristen Britain

I want to like this series much more than I do, but the comparisons the Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books are too strong to ignore. That and it's trope upon trope upon trope. 

The chosen one who is remarkably good at nearly everything she does, and always seems to be the only one in the right place at the right time, the elves that are mysterious and nearly too beautiful to look at, the irredeemably evil undead foe with not a shred of anything we could possibly empathise with, the ghosts of heroes who steer our heroine on their way, the too intelligent horses. Ok, seriously, the horses are cool though.


But Oh my god that cover art (two editions styles up above, I really can't decide which I like better) And really, I do like this series, just in a sort of ambivalent way.



Plot summary (#2): Karigan, after being pulled into the mystical Green Rider messenger service of the king by even more mystical circumstances, is a year later resisting it's call, until a ghost forces the issue. The wall keeping the black magic of Mornhavon outside the kingdom is broken and falling, and with magic more or less outlawed for hundreds of years, the kingdom doesn't know how to fix it. Wild magic is flowing through the land turning forest groves to stone, and playing havoc with the green riders magical abilities. And Karigan's ability is changing, and uncontrollable - is that because she's Karigan, or because of the wild magic?


(#3): Things are settled down a little, for now, and Karigan is out on the road doing some actual messenger tasks, with a rookie along for the ride. He's fun, since he's rather obnoxious, and gives Karigan an object lesson what a pain in the ass she must have been. Meanwhile the King's betrothed has been kidnapped, and someone is stealing rare but fairly useless old books and scrolls from various places in the kingdom. Karigan is the only one in the right place at the right time to figure out the connection.


It's not all bad though, and I actually still like the heroine here actually better than Talia of Valdemar. Karigan has grown since book one, and for once the plot is not driven by everyone failling to sit down and have a good talk. In fact, that's exactly what happens, so the plot is driven by everyone actually working together to figure out why the bad is happening, instead of wandering around trying to keep it secret. There's great continuity too, things that happened in the first book show up again. 


There's a love triangle (I hate love triangles) but it's different, and not something you see in most fantasy novels, although in a quasi-medieval setting, it's realistic. I actually liked it, and want to see where it goes.




Rulers in this kind of inherited monarchy did not (could not) marry commoners (and if they did, 'commoner' meant 'not noble for 14 generations back', not daughter of a merchant as Karigan is). Rulers did marry partners who bought political alliances, and hoped for heirs, and if the married couple could stand to be in the same room as each other, all well and good. In fact Zachary's betrothed here, Estora, is well known to be quite a lovely lady, and the odds are she and Zachary will make as good a going of it as anyone could. So Karigan and Zachary can feel what they feel, but Britain does a good job of showing the consequences of that: Two honourable people admit they have those feelings, but that they can't do anything about it, and wish each other well.


(show spoiler)



There's one thing that's really awkward here though in #3, and I see it all the time, but it's particularly blatant. In this case, Karigan spends a few nights at a brothel, where one of the denizens is a lesbian. So when she gets hit on, we get Karigan suddenly recalling the "beloved" uncles that she's never mentioned earlier, and will never mention again, and how "it's ok, they were nice people, but it's not for me." To authors: If the uncles are so beloved, mention them more than once. If you're adding a lesbian character just to make the MC uncomfortable, don't do that. If you're adding a lesbian character just to have one, don't do that. If there was any point whatsoever to the character of Trudy, other than to make Karigan blush later when she gets told "and Trudy sends her love", I can't for the life of me figure it out. Have GLBT characters for sure, but if the character was male he would have been equally throwaway and pointless, and Karigan would have blushed just as hard. Why couldn't one of the Weapons (the king's guard) be gay instead, or a baker or why didn't we meet these "beloved uncles" more than one brief and jarring memory. This just feels shoehorned in, like we've taken a detour in this chapter into "A very special episode of the Green Riders". That said, despite my little rant here, it's a brief interlude, and not as egregious as say, the Harry Dresden version.


Overall, solid books, in a solid series, with enough continuity to make you want more, and enough wrap up in each book so far to not feel like you're being hung out on a cliff.


For horse mad teenagers who read fantasy, this would be a definite win, but I'm not sure a rabid Valdemar fan could read it without making the comparisons I do. I think Valdemar, as a series, is more coherent and possibly better written, at least the early books. But I'm no rabid fan, and Talia always seemed a little self-righteous to me, so I enjoy the Green Rider series mostly because I like the characters better.


For horse mad teenagers who read fantasy and haven't read Valdemar (can there even be such a thing?) these are bound to be a hit.