Book Review : Spirit of the Wood

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : Spirit of the WoodSpirit of the Wood (Green Rider) by Kristen Britain
Published by DAW on November 7, 2023
Genres: Fantasy
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
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four-stars
Source: NetGalley

This short novel set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Green Rider series tells the backstory of fan-favorite character Laren Mapstone.

Perfect for longtime Green Rider fans eager for more of the world or new readers discovering the realm of Sacoridia for the first time, this action-packed, feminist fantasy is a must-read for lovers of the genre.

After years of leading the battle against the vicious Darrow Raiders, Lieutenant-Rider Laren Mapstone has built a fortress around herself to conceal her emotions and the deep scars she carries. When she is made mentor to Tavin Bankside, a Green Rider trainee on his first message errand, her cold and brooding exterior quickly earns her the moniker the “Ice Lady.”

Only after Laren is severely wounded in an attack on the North Road by a gang of bandits—including some former Darrow Raiders with vengeance on their minds—do the fortress walls fall. Even as they seek refuge from danger in a Rider waystation, Tavin’s natural empathic gift leaves him vulnerable to the assault of the lieutenant’s emotions. Tavin must save Lieutenant Mapstone’s life and master his empathic gift before it destroys them both.

However, an ancient power lurks deep within the Green Cloak, and its aid or hindrance could mean survival for the Riders or the downfall of Sacoridia and all the free lands.

Is there anything better than catching up with old friends and learning more about the experiences that shaped them? Spirit of the Wood offers a cozy return to the magical world of the Green Rider series, which is honestly probably one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. This novella takes place before the events of the first book in the series, and takes readers along for the ride of the early years of Colonel Laren Mapstone’s Green Rider career.

 

Spirit of the Wood showcases Kristen Britain’s unfailing ability to make charmingly eccentric characters and chilling villains.  The eponymous wood in question is the returning Green Cloak forest, which has mysterious powers and has played a role in many of the events of the other novels in the series. I feel like the series has really only scratched the surface of the mysteries of the magic in the world and it was thrilling to get another glimpse of one of those enigmas. 

 

“‘Laren Mapstone has some fight left in her,’ Abram said quietly. ‘But it is not endless, which is why you must go to the hermit first thing in the morning.’”*

 

I was most excited about reading about Laren Mapstone before she became the leader of the Green Riders and close advisor to King Zachary. I was a bit disappointed that she wasn’t more of the focus of the novella. While she is a main character, the narrator of the novella is Tavin, a newbie Green Rider who is on his first mission with Laren when she is attacked and gravely wounded. As a result of this injury, Laren spends the majority of The Spirit of the Wood out of commission—unconscious or delirious with fever or just unable to function much. 

 

Admittedly, I did end up liking Tavin a lot and found his personal and Rider abilities interesting. I was also obviously a fan of his loyal and spirited Rider horse, Goose. There are also appearances from other characters known to fans of the series, like the Forester, and Mapstone’s horse, Bluebird, and references to future events and appearances that will whet the appetite of previous and new readers alike. I also really enjoyed seeing the illustrations of the characters and events in Spirit of the Wood, which will be familiar to readers of The Dream Gatherer. 

 

The only thing I did not truly care for in Spirit of the Wood was that future events of the series were somewhat retconned to be affected by the events of the novel. These were not huge changes, but I felt like it affected my view of how the events played out in retrospect. For instance, Laren Mapstone is given hints of View Spoiler » and now I have to think that her choices during those events were influenced by the warnings she was given and not just by her own personal choices and agency. I wasn’t the biggest fan of that narrative decision, as I feel like it cheapened a lot of Laren’s personal qualities, and at the same time, her journey in this book to become the leader she is meant to be. How is it indicative of her personal character struggle to overcome if she needs someone to share his glimpse into the future to influence her decisions?

 

I really don’t even think this character would have shared those insights in the first place, as he fully believed in Laren’s abilities and character. But on the flip side, this development and its impact on future events is, at least for now, easily ignored by readers who, like myself, didn’t really care for its implications. Even if I wasn’t quite taken with these minute details of the ending, the conclusion itself actually made me feel emotional and I found myself choking up upon reading it.

 

“Sometimes, as gentle and kind as we try to be, even as we celebrate the spirit of the wood and the life within, there is a time that one must go to battle for a greater good.”

 

I truly love all of the characters and the world of the Green Rider series. Though I am really anxious to return to the present events of the series once more, Spirit of the Wood was a truly satisfying and endearing return to the series, effortlessly displaying author Britain’s one-of-a-kind charm, wit, as well as the hallmarks of the series—intelligent and fiercely loyal horses, forests with plenty of secrets, strong heroines, the power of friendship, and sometimes peculiar magics. I will continue to scoop up any future entries of the series as soon as humanly possible and will be picking up a physical copy of this novella to go with the rest of my Green Rider series. 

 

*All quotes taken from an ARC and subject to change at time of publication.

 

 


 

Check out my reviews for the other books in the Green Rider series:

For my reread and most recent reviews of the series —

For my original review of the series —

 

 

four-stars
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Book Review : Spirit of the Wood - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 3, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy

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2 responses to “Book Review : Spirit of the Wood

    • You definitely should! It has a bit of everything for everyone–romance, action, political intrigue, magic, intelligent animals, etc!

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