Book Reviews : Winterlight

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.

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Book Reviews : WinterlightWinterlight (Green Rider Book 7) by Kristen Britain
on September 7th 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 845
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Source: NetGalley

This seventh novel of the Green Rider series follows the adventures of messenger, magic wielder, and knight Karigan G'ladheon as she fights to save king and country from dark magic and a looming war.
After her capture at the hands of Grandmother and the Second Empire, Karigan G'ladheon is making halting progress towards recovery. Karigan takes on increasingly dangerous missions, haunted by the specter of her torturer, Nyssa, and sinking ever further into the mire of her recollections of the past and the losses she's sustained.
Meanwhile, the forces of the Second Empire are moving on Sacoridia and their primary target is a vulnerable garrison that guards a crucial mountain pass. Faced with new fatherhood and a country on the verge of war, King Zachary sends a contingent of soldiers and Green Riders to the pass--but his own recovery from the events of the north is not yet complete either.
Reunited with her fellow Riders at the pass, Karigan takes on a leadership role, but quickly finds that the Riders are not as she last left them. As tension mounts and war draws ever closer to the heart of Sacoridia, Karigan must discover what it truly means to be a Rider and a hero of the realm--and what sacrifices must be made to truly heal from her past.

Winterlight is the latest and penultimate entry in the Green Rider series. After really enjoying my reread of Firebrand, which I thought showed a substantial improvement in writing, I felt that Winterlight, though enjoyable to the point that I stayed up until 4am reading my ARC, was a step backwards. Winterlight doesn’t feel as well thought out to me as earlier books in the series, and again falls victim to the author’s “telling” style of writing, and suffers from other odd narrative choices. I have trouble picturing how the series is going to wrap up in one more title, and sort of lament that it’s going to attempt to do so.


I thought it an odd choice to have Captain Mapstone kidnapped by people from a country that I don’t recall ever hearing of in the Green Rider universe—it just felt incredibly random and like an unnecessary addition to the already numerous conflicts in the story. I remember the lands of Eletia and Rhovanny, sure, but never this third country, Varosia, which apparently treats their women as objects, with no rights. I feel that Karigan would have at least thought of this or broached a comparison when she was trapped in the dystopian future of Sacoridia. It certainly would have been a natural comparison to make, but this country was never referenced. If it was referenced, it was definitely only in passing, as part of Stevic’s business, and I didn’t remember the country at all until Captain Mapstone was being taken there against her will. This is not the best foundation work.


And to put it quite bluntly, I just thought this storylines with the Darrow Raiders, which have actually been mentioned multiple times in other novels, and this other country, just felt like filler added in at the eleventh hour. There were already more than enough conflicts going on in Winterlight without the old enemies with a grudge again Captain Mapstone reappearing to get revenge. Perhaps the author felt the need to get Captain Mapstone and her meddling out of the way so Karigan and King Zachary could finally be together, or for Karigan to take on more leadership in the Green Riders, but at this point, that remains to be seen—especially with Captain Connoly treating Karigan like a thorn in his side.


Another thing that really bothered me was that what little improvements had been made to get rid of the rampant “telling” writing style in Firebrand seemed to have gone out the window in Winterlight once more. I was pretty disappointed, as many moments that should have rendered a big impact or at the very least, a racketing up of tension, landed flat due to how readers learned of them. For instance, we learn that a major player in the series is “bespelled,” out of nowhere with almost no lead up, due to Fergal waking up Karigan and simply telling her that he witnessed it with his magical Green Rider ability. There is narration from Fergal’s perspective when he realizes this potentially extremely damaging information, which I lamented. I could only imagine the tension and drama this would’ve added to Winterlight if we had read of this discovery from Fergal’s point-of-view, and revisited his worrying over how to proceed with the knowledge throughout the large novel.


Unfortunately, these weren’t the only times Winterlight went in directions I didn’t understand and care for. There is a character death that really saddened me, as I felt that that character’s full potential in the series had never been fully realized and that the character’s death happened far too quickly for my liking. In fact, I had to reread the section where it happened because I was quite literally shocked that it had. Likewise, I was disappointed that the novel seemed to struggle to implement the full cast of characters from the series—Estral is barely present at all, Alton, blessedly only has a few chapters from his perspective—and likewise, Captain Mapstone only has a handful of chapters.


There seemed to be very little balance in between these perspectives, and Winterlight fails to include all of its cast of characters, meaning it mainly relies on telling us, mostly through hearsay, what other characters are doing. And when it’s not focusing on Karigan, Winterlight tends to focus on newer characters to the series, like Enver and Anna Ash, instead of many of our old favorites. I was also conflicted about whether or not I liked the inclusion of all these new Green Riders, because I found many of them annoying, but also thrilled at the fact that there were so many new Green Riders being called to the magical organization. It was enjoyable to encounter Melry again, the first friend Karigan made in the Green Riders, but it had been so long since her last appearance that I felt I barely knew the character, and just wasn’t as attached to her.


“‘After being among your people by the mountains,’ he replied, ‘I found the eyrie dreary and boring beyond belief, and so I talked Ripaeria into bringing me here.’ I am in very big trouble the eagle said. She sounded very pleased with herself.”*


Despite this, I really enjoyed the introduction of two new characters in Winterlight— Scorch the Dragon and Ripaeria the Eagle. One thing that Kristen Britain consistently excels at throughout the Green Rider series is giving all of her animals or magical creatures big, vivacious personalities. Whether or not these animals are magically able to talk, their personalities consistently leap off the page, and I really love reading about them. Every time the rebellious Ripaeria appeared, I had a huge smile on my face, and can only hope she and Scorch return in the next novel, and don’t get killed, which is something that seems to happen to a lot of animals in the series.


“Don’t feel bad for me,” Karigan replied….”It would appear I have enough special titles that one less won’t hurt.”


One of the other things that I really enjoyed about Winterlight was that the novel makes fun of Karigan a lot. It totally recognizes how ridiculous Karigan’s Mary Sue-ness is, and just how many titles the girl has at this point in the Green Rider series. I really appreciated the jokes at this girl’s expense, as it keeps her human and attempts to drag her down to the level of her ordinary and mortal peers. Though a lot of this effort is undone when Karigan is granted yet another title and made Eletian royalty. I also thought much of the addition of Anna Ash, the only Rider without a magical ability or calling, was undone. The poor girl, who has already proven herself in battle, finds herself publicly questioning her choice to become a Green Rider, after so much was made of her decision to become one in the last novel and what it signified to the organization. I would have gladly given up this whole plot, which felt more like filler than plot, for more chapters from other characters’ perspectives, like that of Captain Mapstones, Zachary, Estora, Estral, or Fergal.


Winterlight definitely sets itself apart from other entries in the series in that its mainly focused on a full scale war as it comes to Sacoridia. I was conflicted on whether or not this was an improvement, as I really am not a big fan of reading descriptions of battle, but was also thankful that the focus was generally off of Karigan’s love life. I say generally, because near the end of Winterlight, we are thrown a complete and unbelievable curve ball in Karigan’s romance with Zachary. I say it’s unbelievable, because what happened seemed completely out-of-character for one of the characters involved compared to what his or her perspective in other novels in the series told us. It also seemed inconceivable that this solution would so easily be suggested after seven other books repeatedly and somewhat overdramatically told readers how huge the ramifications would be if Karigan and Zachary were together. This was a pretty big reoccurring conflict in the series, and for it to just be dealt with so simply and so suddenly, was almost insulting to past developments.


“Karigan nodded. Then, because she needed to know, she gathered her courage and said, ‘May I ask why you have chosen for me this?’

Estora stood very still, her expression unchanging until she lifted her chin and replied, ‘I think we both know why.'”


I also had trouble suspending my disbelief that the Second Empire suddenly had an entire army to fight Sacoridia with. Throughout the entire series, the Second Empire seemed like a small cult of rag-tag followers led mainly by Grandmother, and suddenly there’s an entire army advancing on Sacoridia, led by the despicable Captain Birch. Though in past entries in the series, we did hear about Captain Birch leading raids on villages in Sacoridia, it never seemed like there were anything more than a small number of these Second Empire forces. I just don’t understand how the series went from the Second Empire being dealt a huge blow by the loss of their leader, Grandmother, to having an army numbering in the thousands marching to strike down their enemy at the front gates of their castle.


I was also not thrilled that the final confrontation will have Amberhill at front and center. Throughout the series, I just felt that his character arc has been a mess. Though I initially thought his character would spice things up at Zachary’s court, during his appearance in The High King’s Tomb, maybe even being a lover for Estora or Karigan, I never imagined him as the main antagonist. Even when he was the emperor of the dystopian future in Mirror Sight, I never really thought it would come down to it, believing that Karigan and the rest of the Green Riders would somehow prevent him from ever getting that far as a villain. As the main villain, I feel that Amberhill lacks emotional impact, as he’s never been around enough to form meaningful bonds with the other cast of characters. Instead, he’s Zachary’s distant cousin who just might destroy the world sometime—his defeat wouldn’t make anyone—not the characters or the readers, particularly sad.


With all of this and everything else that is going on in Winterlight, I am a little alarmed at the prospect of the series trying to tie up all these ends in the next release. Winterlight definitely felt like it was hurtling to this conclusion at top speed, and in some cases, throwing its character development and the plot it has built up over the series to the winds, while adding extraneous other plots to tie up on top of it. Despite not being the strongest book in the series by far, I’m still interested to see how the series will manage to wrap up in the final entry of the Green Rider series.


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


(*EDIT: There was, in fact, an issue with my copy or device when I initially read Winterlight, and I quite literally somehow started reading at about 30% of the way into the book. As such, I have since reread the beginning of the novel and edited my original review.)


Read 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 —

Book Review : Winterlight - Blogging with Dragons

Posted September 7, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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One response to “Book Reviews : Winterlight

  1. Constance Kathryn Brummer

    Get over the same king falls in love with a commer. Bring back Cade he is the man Karigan really loves. Tired of the same scenario of high bread and low bread.

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