Book Review : Firebrand

Book Review : FirebrandFirebrand by Kristen Britain
Published by DAW Books on February 28th 2017
Pages: 816
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Magic, danger, and adventure abound for messenger Karigan G'ladheon in the sixth book in Kristen Britain's New York Times-bestselling Green Rider epic fantasy series - -First-rate fantasy.- --Library Journal
Zachary Davriel Hillander, High King of Sacoridia, rues how much he has had to give up to lead his realm, including the freedom to live and love as he chooses. When an embassy from Eletia arrives to propose a joint venture between their realms to seek out an old ally in the north, he is dismayed to learn that the one Sacoridian they have in mind to accompany their guide is the woman he truly loves but cannot have: Green Rider Karigan G'ladheon. Karigan has only just returned from a dark future where Sacoridia has been conquered and is ruled by a despotic emperor, and she has not recovered in heart or mind. As if that is not enough, the castle ghosts won't leave her alone. Though Zachary is loath to part from her so soon after her return, he knows she is the best choice to undertake the mission to the north. Each step on their journey places Karigan and her companions closer to enemy territory and danger, for northward lie the forces of Second Empire, Sacoridia's longtime foe, and Grandmother, the necromantic leader of Second Empire, has not been idle. She uses her magic to summon a wild elemental spirit to wreak havoc upon Zachary and his wife, Queen Estora. At first the Sacoridians succeed in fending off the creature, but it so covets Estora that it can't stay away. It abducts Zachary, assuming his form and his place at Estora's side--but when it is finally ousted, Zachary is still missing. Estora, alone and heavy with twins, must prepare her realm for the coming conflict from the confines of her bedchamber. Meanwhile, the danger only deepens for Karigan and her companions as they journey north. When she finds herself caught in the midst of a clash between forces, Karigan must rescue and protect her king before she falls into a trap set by Grandmother--a trap that could give Second Empire the power to control the dead and all the demons of the hells.

I felt like I was the only Green Rider fan who wasn’t crazy about this book. This book made me question whether I, and not the book, was the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to revisit Karigan back in Sacoridia, but it felt like the earlier entry in the series, “Mirror Sight” hung over my head at every page. And when Karigan couldn’t get over those events either, remembering Cade, I feel resentful that he, whom I could never force myself to like and didn’t understand how Karigan ever did, and that awful story line were ever introduced in the first place. After “Mirror Sight,” I became disenchanted with the entirety of the world and its characters. And I haven’t even touched the book since it first came out, but it still cast a shadow on everything else in Firebrand, including Karigan and Zachary’s forbidden attraction, and Karigan’s involvement with the gods, plus every man’s automatic development of feelings for her.

Karigan always loved King Zachary, and to see him having a somewhat successful marriage and love life with Estora, whom I actually liked, made me very annoyed and felt like a twist of the knife. I hated that Estora was so damn likable and pregnant with his children. It was a strange feeling to like a couple that amounts to adultery, especially when the wife, Estora, was so admirably determined to make her husband care for her. I liked that she felt stifled by her bed-orders from her pregnancy, and that she wasn’t going to give up her husband to his affections for Karigan without a fight. I definitely respected her when she rose to the challenges presented to her as both a queen and wife. View Spoiler »

And though I have liked other adulterous couples more than their married counterparts in the past, with King Arthur stories coming to mind, I was not able to freely cheer for Zachary and Karigan anymore. Perhaps some of Karigan’s guilt towards her friend Estora was so well-written that it rubbed off on me. Regardless, the moment I had waited for throughout the entire series finally happened—View Spoiler »Too bad I found myself unable to enjoy it. It didn’t feel nearly as special after the Karigan’s nonsense love affair with Cade, which was for some reason, written to be Karigan’s grand love affair. Why it seemed like a good idea to undermine the slow-burning, ever-present feelings between Zachary and Karigan that spanned several novels, still boggled my mind, and I felt a lot of those feelings left over from “Mirror Sight” spilled into my reading of “Firebrand.”

It didn’t help anything that Karigan was constantly rehashing her feelings for Cade, even though she had lost most of her memories of him, which I had hoped meant that the entirety of that book would be practically erased from future novels, but I was wrong. View Spoiler » I just wanted Karigan to “rip the band-aid off,” so to speak, and forget him, in favor of Zachary, who actually existed in her time period and for whom she actually had feelings first. Heck, even Estral, Karigan’s best friend bluntly said it to Zachary, “She loved Cade Harlowe, yes, but she loved you first.” I asked myself, why does everyone in the novel and for that matter, the fandom, understand this but Karigan (and maybe even Kristen Britain)?

Zachary and Karigan did finally admit their mutual feelings, but it didn’t feel like much of a victory for them to express their feelings for many reasons. First of all, the confession itself was a letdown, with Zachary repeating his affections Mr. Darcy-style “I once told you how I felt about. It was a couple of years ago atop the castle roof….My feelings have not changed since then, not even wavered. If anything, they have only grown,” and to which Karigan merely responded “I do too.” This was not exactly the grand or earth-shattering romantic moment for which I had hoped. Second of all, everything that subsequently happened between the two just felt like severe backpedaling from her earlier romance with Cade, and a contrived effort to reestablish Zachary as “the one” for Karigan. For instance, take this observation of the two from the Eltetian, Nari:

“The one whose song [Karigan heard] was Zachary’s. Nari could see the bond between them as a fusing of her living light with his….Zachary’s shown in a range of blues that revealed coolness and peace, but could easily give way to fire. Hers was an appropriate green….Her green, not surprisingly was also disposed to fire.”


And finally, the other reason I couldn’t get on board the Zachary and Karigan this time around was that in order for her to actually be with him, Karigan would have to become his mistress. This was something I really didn’t want for her, but at the same time, sort of did. The only alternative for their relationship was for something bad to happen to Estora, and for Karigan to become Zachary’s queen. That didn’t sit well with me either, for I liked Estora and didn’t *really* want anything bad happen to her, but it seemed like the best thing that could happen for Karigan and Zachary. And to top off this romantic dilemma, I was very frustrated that yet another person developed feelings for Karigan. Enough already! View Spoiler »I couldn’t believe yet another character fell for Karigan! My feelings were so conflicted about all the relationships, most especially Zachary and Karigan’s, that I put off writing the review for quite a while after finishing the book.

I wasn’t just irritated with the romantic aspects of the book, however. Karigan’s constant magnetism for the gods’s involvement, unrequited love, hero worship, and dangerous assignments started to taste a bit stale to me. And the character herself, as well as others, wondered why there was no one else that could fill her shoes in any of her roles. Were there really no other women or Green Riders in Sacor City? Did Karigan really have to be the Avatar of the god of death, Westrion; the first Swordsmaster in forever; and the only living honorary member of the Weapons ? In a sense, Karigan was so special that I no longer felt I could relate to her. Estora, in her place as first woman in the realm, but second in Zachary’s heart, suddenly felt more relatable to me than the heroine of the series!

And Karigan’s struggle all felt a little in vain, as she had already seen the dystopian future and lived in it, and saw what was coming if Morhaven the Black and the Second Empire weren’t defeated. I guess I would rather not have these clues from the dystopian future to guide the actions of the characters in present day Sacoridia. Instead, I’d rather they forged ahead on their own without any hints.


The book wasn’t all frustration and guilt though. It did have a large dose of Kristen Britain’s signature fun and quirkiness and I was happy to revisit the cast of characters, which felt like old friends. I enjoyed the superbView Spoiler »

Even though I found this book to be somewhat disappointing from a romantic relationships standpoint, it was still very good. Upon completion, I found myself contemplating rereading the whole series. I have never understood why this very original series wasn’t more popular and on the same level as series such as Throne of Glass. I was very excited for the direction the next books would take, what with non-called Riders, mentions of Lord Amberhill, and what promised to bring new and unpredictable challenges for Karigan, her love life, her career with the Riders and Weapons, and the battle against the Second Empire.

Book Reviews - - Firebrand

Posted April 3, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy


2 responses to “Book Review : Firebrand

  1. Violet

    I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiments…. I actually found your post after googling the series to seen if there was anything worth reading after mirrorsight. I was so annoyed and betrayed by that book (I felt it jumped the series and love interest shark) that I have ignored all the other books. But maybe it’s worth a try…

    • Mirror Sight was quite an off putting trip, huh? I really enjoyed Firebrand, but was again disappointed with Winterlight, the next entry. ? I’ll probably see the series to the end, but I don’t have high expectations.

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