Reread Review : Blackveil

Reread Review : BlackveilBlackveil (Green Rider, #4) by Kristen Britain
Published by DAW Books on February 1st 2011
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 672
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three-stars

Read Kristen Britain's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.
The long-awaited sequel to Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.
Once a simple student, Karigan G'ladheon finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand when she becomes a legendary Green Rider-one of the magical messengers of the king. Forced by magic to accept a dangerous fate she would never have chosen, headstrong Karigan has become completely devoted to the king and her fellow Riders.
But now, an insurrection led by dark magicians threatens to break the boundaries of ancient, evil Blackveil Forest-releasing powerful dark magics that have been shut away for a millennium.

Blackveil is the follow up to The High King’s Tomb, and though I found it more enjoyable than its predecessor, it was still plagued with a lot of the same problems—“telling” instead of “showing,” bad pacing, and strangely dark events for a young adult fantasy. But what is most awful in Blackveil is the truly horrendous romances that have completely surpassed my suspension of disbelief. Despite all of this, I really enjoyed parts of the novel, namely the expedition into the Blackveil forest.

 

Blackveil is definitely the darkest entry in the series so far, which seems very at odds with the high school—realistically more like middle school at most times—atmosphere of the Green Riders. Not only is there a very nonconsensual and alarming sex scene, this is putting it lightly—it is clearly a rape—but readers are also forced to read from the perspective of a pedophile on multiple occasions. Both of these instances left a really bad taste in my mouth, and were completely jarring and out of place, especially in light of other characters’ simplistic and unbelievable behaviors.

 

For instance, I was absolutely horrified when Captain Mapstone, a Green Rider with twenty years of experience, decided to leave the door open when discussing Zachary’s romantic feelings with Karigan, something she believes is a huge threat to the well-being of not only Karigan, but also national security, for some reason. Of course, this conversation is overheard by an eavesdropper, despite the fact that Zachary should have Weapons guarding him and preventing this eavesdropping and you know, a care for the vitality of discretion. I was absolutely unable to believe that either Captain Mapstone or Zachary would be this stupid to discuss something this pivotal where anyone can hear, but they absolutely are.

 

“With another glance to make sure the rest had departed, he crept to the doorway of the adjoining room. The door was ajar, so it was easy to hear the king and captain speaking, though it was the captain who did most of the talking.”

 

As if it weren’t already hard enough for me to believe that Zachary and Karigan are “in love” in the first place. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of the series, Karigan and Zachary have almost zero interaction, so I don’t understand how these two managed to fall in love. Sure, there’s lust and attraction, but the series proclaims time and time again that the two are in love. And the romance doesn’t get any better on any other fronts, as Karigan decides out of nowhere to have a fling with Alton, who is perhaps my least favorite character in the entire series, because she is sad that Zachary is marrying Estora. Not only is this a horrible way to treat a friend that she doesn’t seem to even like, let alone harbor romantic feelings for, but it is almost hilariously thwarted in the blink of an eye.

 

Alton meets Estral, who comes to the wall, and a paragraph after he questions Estral if Karigan mentions him and still has feelings for him, Alton throws away three previous books worth of pathetic and unrealistic pining for Karigan, and decides he actually likes Estral instead. Karigan, who merely wanted to rebound with Alton and doesn’t even like the guy, takes news of their romance extremely poorly—she doesn’t want Alton, but she doesn’t want anyone else to have him. This whole romance reflects extremely poorly on Karigan, who acts like a brat. Plus, the entire romance between Estral and Alton has almost zero build up before it actually happens, and definitely seems like something out of a middle school love affair—”do you like me, circle yes or no.” I wish Karigan could form an actual relationship, complete with a realistic time of her getting to know her lvoe interest, and with friendship and mutual rapport, instead of how the series likes to form their relationships, which honestly seems to be a mere checklist of two attractive people of the opposite gender meeting and having a single conversation.

 

Besides the extremely lacking romance, I also couldn’t help but to be disappointed with the pacing and world-building of the novel. Though in The High King’s Tomb, I was hopeful that the introduction of Lord Amberhill would shake things up in the series and make things more interesting, his perspective in Blackveil offers literally nothing. I was not at all interested in his pirate treasure or his foray into the sea, and it seemed completely removed and unimportant to the story at large. The only thing his narration served was to derail the forward momentum of the story, which already struggles enough from the endlessly tedious segments at the wall.

 

I was also confused by a lot of the world-building in Blackveil and by what I feel is a lack of continuity. Both Karigan and the Second Empire leader of Grandmother, venture beyond the wall into Blackveil forest, and are forced to use a lot of their powers. Karigan is called upon to use her ability to cross the threshold of time, which is something earlier novels stated she was only able to do as a result of the wild magic seeping into the world and infecting her. Though one could reason that maybe she is able to carry out this time travel as she is in Blackveil, this is not explicitly the case, and the novel seems to retcon this whole wild magic as the reason, and makes Karigan’s special ability. I couldn’t help but to feel this was a glaring lack of continuity, all in the name of making Karigan even more of a Mary Sue.

 

“But Grandmother knew better–Mornhavon was not God. He may have been the greatest Arcosian to have lived, still loved and revered by his people, and the favored one of God, but no, he was not God.”

 

Likewise, Grandmother’s worship of her “God” similarly perplexes me. The woman states that Mornhavon is not her precious God, but then Blackveil turns around and blatantly implies that Mornhavon is actually her God. Her God possesses one of her Second Empire followers, something that burns him alive from the inside out. We see this again when Mornhavon appears to thwart Karigan and the Eletians, and he possesses a member of their party in the same manner. I am not sure if Grandmother is just cluelessly worshipping Mornhavon, which seems unlikely, or if there is some other force at play here. Regardless of either scenario, it seems very messy and contradictory. Plus, it seems very odd that we know about Sacoridian gods, but nothing about the Second Empire’s.

 

Even though I feel like the series, with Blackveil, lost a little bit of its direction, I really enjoyed the parts of the novel that focused on the expedition into the eponymous forest. When Karigan is adventuring, and in a life-threatening situation, she is really at her best, and most likeable. When she’s dealing with friends, family, and romance, she is often judgmental and bratty. However, when the heroine has a singular goal in mind, she becomes capable and tenacious. I really enjoyed reading about the creatures of the forest, the eerie atmosphere, and the Eletian city. Author Kristen Britain does a great job making the forest into its own chilling character and seeing the destruction wreaked by Mornhavon there only serves to impress what is at stake for the world should he return.

 

“Oh, Yates.” She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed hard. “we’re Green Riders. We’ve been through worse.”

“I don’t know,” he said. Then smiling slightly, he added, “Maybe you have.”

 

To my surprise, I also really enjoyed a member of Karigan’s expedition, Yates. Though he has been a background Green Rider for most of the series, and a flat one at that, Britain really tried to flesh out the character in this entry in the series. I really enjoyed his wisecracking enthusiasm, and his rapport with Karigan. Of course, the author only made us like him so she View Spoiler » feel very contrived as a result.

 

Despite the issues of pacing, telling, and continuity, I still enjoy reading the Green Rider series, mainly for its fantasy elements. Unfortunately, with the darker content of Blackveil, I’d now hesitate to recommend the series to younger fantasy readers, but at the same time, the series is often too simplistic for adult readers. I cannot say if my continued enjoyment of the series is just my nostalgia for one of the first true fantasy series I read and reviewed or just that I love having a female heroine at the helm of a classic fantasy story, but I still find the books entertaining and fun, even if the writing is not the strongest.

 

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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 —

 

three-stars
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Book Review : Blackveil - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 23, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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