Books : reviews

Kristen Britain.
Green Rider.
Earthlight. 1998

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 6 February 2000

“I’m a messenger…Green Rider.” The young man’s body spasmed with pain, and blood dribbled over his lip and down his chin. “The satchel on the saddle…important message for…king. Life or death. If you love Sacor…Sacordia and itsking, take it. Take it to him.”

The dying messenger is found – with two black arrows in his back – by Karigan G’ladheon, a merchant’s daughter, who has just been cast out of the renowned school at Selium for retaliating to the torments doled out by an aristocrat. Unwillingly, she is caught up in the designs of a deadly mage who would release ancient evils into the world, and his human cat’s-paws whose aims are more immediate. Flying from the archer whose black arrows capture the souls of their victims, and other enemies both human and monstrous, Karigan must come of age immediately if she is to survive and warn her king of his peril.

It isn’t Karigan G’ladheon’s day – on her way home in disgrace after being expelled from her school for troublemaking, she comes across a dying Green Rider, who entrusts her to finish his perilous mission, to deliver his last message. Soon she finds herself on a horse with a mind of its own, pursued by mercenaries, murderous Shadow Riders, and weird evil creatures from legend. She just wants to deliver the message and go home to safety. But nothing is ever that easy.

This is certainly action packed, as Karigan careers from one crisis to the next. It’s good to see a protagonist who isn’t all-powerful, but suffers everyday misfortunes (like when she has to chase her sleeping blanket, caught by a gust of wind). But she’s not incompetent either, and manages to struggle through her various trials, growing into her new role. There are a lot of standard fantasy tropes (evil black-blooded creatures from the Dark Wood, elvenesque creatures, and I’m sure I caught a hint of light sabres at one point), leavened with some less-common scenes: the Revolutionary Republicans make an interesting change (but are rather under used), and the economics of the various regions of the Kingdom seem to make more sense than in many fantasies (although there seems to be a terrible dearth of roads). The writing is a little uneven in places (this is a first novel), but there is plenty of everything: characters, plot, variety, and action. There is a good conclusion, but obviously with potential for a sequel. I for one would like to see what happens to Karigan next.

Kristen Britain.
First Rider's Call.
Pocket. 2003

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 6 December 2005

Following the events in Kristen Britain’s acclaimed first novel, Karigan G’ladheon, who took on the mantle of king’s messenger after chancing upon a dying Green Rider, has returned to her everyday life. But few may evade their destiny, and Karigan is soon to face even greater dangers…

Blackveil Forest is stirring, its tainted powers seeping through the breach in a bulwark built a thousand years ago to hem in the ancient evil. The power of the forest has been forgotten over the generations, and the people of Satoridia have not kept watch.

While havoc sweeps the countryside, the taint of Blackveil takes yet another dangerous turn, twisting the magic of the Green Riders, so that none can be confident in their abilities.

Summoned to duty by the call of the First Rider, Karigan must help the Riders, and face the truth about her own savage heritage. Sought by undead warriors, Karigan must confront an ancient enemy in the rotten heart of Blackveil.

Karigan G’ladheon is now officially a Green Rider, even if she doesn’t really want to be. And as events that started in the first book begin to spiral out of control, she finds herself at the centre of the action again -- with a bit of ghostly time travelling thrown in for good measure as a way of introducing the historical backstory.

This is another great action-packed adventure. The plot is suitably complex, as various characters career through space (and occasionally time), rarely doing the expected thing. (In the intervening years, I have actually forgotten most of the details of what happens in the first book, but that doesn’t matter.) A few threads do get tied up satisfactorily, but there is clearly a sequel, since the danger is merely banished, not defeated. Rather irritatingly, some of the loose ends for said sequel get started towards the end of this, leaving not so much an unfinished as a just started flavour.

Kristen Britain.
The High King's Tomb.
Earthlight. 2007

Kristen Britain.
Gollancz. 2011

Kristen Britain.
Mirror Sight.
Gollancz. 2014

Karigan G’ladheon is a Green Rider – a seasoned member of the royal messenger corps whose loyalty and bravery have already been tested many times. And her final, explosive magical confrontation with Mornhavon the Black should have killed her.

But rather than finding death, and peace, Karigan wakes to a darkness deeper than night. The explosion has transported her somewhere – and into a sealed stone sarcophagus – and now she must escape, somehow, before the thinning air runs out and her mysterious tomb becomes her grave.

Where is she? Does a trap, laid by Mornhavon, lie beyond her prison? And if she can escape, will she find the world beyond the same – or has the magic taken her out of reach of her friends, home and King forever…?