Tuesday, 20 May 2014

And once again we return to the second-rate mishmash of fantasy tropes and themes known as Sacoridia. The magical Wall that protects the land from the evil forest is still broken and leaking bad magic into the world. Karigan, when we last saw her, was steadfastly refusing to join the mystical Green Rider company, but whatever reasons she had are summarily thrown out the window when she throws them out the window and joins up. I'm not kidding. That's basically it.

So becomes a full-fledged Green Rider and begins going about doing Rider things, when a scouting mission she's on goes terribly awry. As in, releases great evil into the world and slaughters her entire party, awry. The magic wielded by the Green Riders starts to glitch, and random bursts of magic render entire swathes of land into stone. Meanwhile, a murderous plot brews in the unexplored underbellies of the palace to revive an empire that collapsed thousands of years into the past. The ancient evil in the forest stirs and takes over the one Green Rider who can mend the wall, using his powers to bring it down. Karigan also learns she can conveniently travel back in time, and that she is apparently good at everything. Meanwhile, King Zachary deals with politics and wrestles with his congested feelings for Karigan and duty to marry for his kingdom, because of course we need half-baked romantic tension to round the mess off nicely.

It's funny that a lot seems to be happening in the good kingdom of Sacoridia, but the pages plod on interminably. Will Karigan be able to wrestle this slavering wreckage of plot points into a distinct and comprehensible storyline? Will we care if she succeeds?

Probably not.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The cover, which depicts a dramatically posed winged horse, is grievously misleading -- there are no winged horses in this book, except in the form of inanimate brooches. Which you can get anywhere. A double betrayal.

It's not often that I want to rip the pages out of a book just so I can finally finish the book and be done with it, so I guess that's one thing First Rider's Call will forever be notable for. But that's not particularly a good thing. I swear, the damn thing would never end and a great deal of nothing was being accomplished the whole time. My copy was 800 pages, and the only time anything truly started to get moving was around the 700 page mark. At that point, though, you've been waiting so long that you just want it to be over so you can move on to the next book.

I am particularly disappointed in the story's flagrant use of deus ex machina elements. No one actually accomplishes anything on their own in this book without spiritual or magical entity doing all the work for them. I wish I were speaking in hyperbole but this is the sad truth. During the climactic battle of this book, Karigan was in the backseat of her own body. Everyone would be sitting down navel-gazing and twiddling their thumbs while the world collapsed around them, if shades of the dead weren't around prodding these slabs of meat into action.

Karigan had such potential in the first book to come into her own, but she plateaued in this sequel and actually regressed into a character as bland and boring as everyone else. I resisted the common perception that she was a Mary Sue in the first book, but now I have to admit defeat and agree with the majority -- she's as Mary Sue as Mary Sue gets. She's special and all the bad guys want to kill her, but this time it's not because she's carrying a deadly message or whatever -- it's because she just so happens to be the ancestor of the ancient evil guy's best buddy. Lil Ambriodhe, the first rider, singles her out for no other reason than they share the same brooch, but for some mysterious reason, Karigan can travel back in time. Her inexplicable romances with King Zachary and Alton render day-old dishwater exciting in comparison.

As you might conclude, I'm not picking up the next book. Let Sacoridia go up in flames, I'm having none of it.


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