Friday, 25 April 2014

In a world where there are massive walls guarding civilization from evil shadowy threats, magical messengers, armies of ghosts, mystical forest elf-people, magical little old ladies, and a ridiculous amount of other similarly impressive fantasy things, our story begins with one errant schoolgirl: Karin G'ladheon. She's running away from boarding school after a fight with one of the other kids gets her booted out. She's headed back home when she encounters a Green Rider, dying from a mysterious pair of arrows in his back. She unwittingly assumes his responsibilities and is thus charged to deliver an important message to the king.

In fiction, though, nothing is ever as easy as that. The said Evil Shadowy Threat dogs her every step, calling upon treasonous scoundrels and monsters from beyond the wall to block her way.

Luckily, Karin is made of sterner stuff than one would expect of a spoiled, pampered merchant's daughter. She'll need every bit of pluck she can summon because she's in (DARE I SAY IT) for the ride of her life.


Sometimes it pays to crack open a book with zero expectations. I only picked this one up because it was cheap and the cover was pretty. It happens.

Green Rider borrows heavily from the fantasy giants that have come before it, but it strikes its own path enough that the similarities come off more as respectful nods rather than cheap imitations. There's a fair amount of world-building (inescapable in this genre) to go through, but Kristen Britain manages to keep a steady enough pace that the story never gets bogged down with details and history.

In fact, it's interesting that most of the world-building revolves around how there's not much history to draw from, as the people in Sacoridia know virtually nothing about the magic in their history, having destroyed all historical record of it in fear of the unknown (technically, known but willfully rendered unknown. Silly people). I'd like to know more about the properties of Green Rider magic, and why everyone develops different abilities.

What really shines is Karigan, the protagonist of this story. To tell the truth, when I read that Karin had been expelled for fighting at school, I was kind of hoping for our heroine to be a scrappy little punk with a huge chip on her shoulder, resorting to fisticuffs rather than actual sense. In truth, she's actually just a nice, somewhat standoffish girl whose only aptitude is for winning fights and not much else. She's a bit of a brat in the beginning, running away from school just because she's been suspended for winning a fight. I'll allow that she benefits from a crazy amount of luck and helpful deus ex machina characters, but the great thing about her is that you do get the feeling that given enough time, she could usually get herself out of trouble.

I was surprised to like Green Rider to the point of suspending all other activities to read it late into the night. I don't know why -- the writing style is rather simplistic and the story doesn't really deliver anything particularly new in the genre. But Kristen Britain never lets up on the action, hurling Karigan into danger and exhaustion in every other chapter, and you can't help feeling like you're right there, struggling through the dangers of the wilderness with her. 

And sometimes, that's all you ask for in a book. Kristen Britain delivers.


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