Reread Review : Green Rider

Reread Review : Green RiderGreen Rider (Green Rider, #1) by Kristen Britain
Published by DAW on November 4th 2008
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 483
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On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G'ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount's neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a "life and death" message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission "for love of country." As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, "Beware the shadow man..."

Karigan's promise changes her life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, and accompanied by the silent specter of the original messenger, she herself becomes a legendary Green Rider. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.

With the impending release of Winterlight, the seventh book in the Green Rider series, on the horizon, I wanted to reread and to rereview the rest of the series! It’s been years since I read the Green Rider series, and it was one of my first forays into the fantasy genre that wasn’t something classic and well-known, like The Lord of the Rings. The series became one of my favorites, and was usually one of the series I suggest to people looking into delving into the fantasy genre because it has a little bit of everything—action, magic, suspense, romance, and a strong female lead named Karigan. However, upon my reread, I didn’t think the first entry in the series was as strong as I previously thought it was—and I no longer felt that my previous rating of five stars was an accurate rating.


“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 . . . Sacoridia and its king, take it. Take it to him.”


I have definitely read a lot more fantasy books since I initially read Green Rider. So I think perhaps maybe I have gotten a little pickier with things like fantasy elements and world-building. This time around, I found Green Rider to be a bit basic and filled with generic fantasy elements, as much as it pains me to say that. In other words, there are a lot of familiar elements here at play, such as a magic forest, a shadow rider, an evil magician that hasn’t been seen in centuries, known as Mornhavon the Black, a helping magic eagle, and other overly intelligent animals. Karigan’s run in with the eccentric Berry sisters, who give her magic items in her quest, called to mind The Lord of the Rings’s Tom Bombadil or the items given to the hobbits from Galadriel. Likewise, The Gray Man, or the Shadow Man as he is sometimes called, reminds me of The Wheel of Time’s Myrddraal or The Lord of the Rings’s ringwraiths. The ancient enemy of Mornhavon the black easily reminds one of Sauron or Ba’alzamon, and the large eagles that rescue the hobbits. I have read that other reviews find Green Rider very similar to Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar works, but as I have not read those titles of her work, I cannot attest to their similarities. 


I was also surprised to find that I found the writing to be a bit more lacking then I recalled. Now keep in mind, this is a debut novel, so writer Kristen Britain may not have yet hit the peak of her craft. My biggest issue with the writing was that there was a lot of telling versus showing. I also felt that events in Green Rider often happened too quickly or off the page as well. For instance, a character develops a crush on Karigan off the page, out of seemingly nowhere, and then she suddenly might return his feelings after a harrowing experience they share. All of it seemed very sudden. Another thing that was a bit irksome for me was that there are several references to evil, deadly creatures known as groundbiters. Throughout the entire book, I was picturing them as massive bug hybrids, or tunneling mole-like creatures, only to be shocked when a character in battle with one suddenly described them as having shields. My initial thought was that maybe I missed a key description, so I hesitated to include this in my review, until I found another reviewer similarly perplexed by the same exact thing. 


“Beware the shadow man.”


Another thing that I think is notable is that the villains aren’t particularly well motivated for their actions. The Gray Man just appears to want to see the world burn for reasons and wants to take the easiest path to doing so, which involves taking advantage of the disowned and exiled Prince Amilton. Amilton, on the other hand, is just a rotten human being—an abuser, a rapist, and someone who doesn’t care about any of the consequences of his actions as long as he gets what he wants. And unfortunately for King Zachary, his younger brother, Amilton wants the crown that he still considers is rightfully his. There is no impetus or crisis in his youth to make Amilton an awful human being, he was just doted on as the heir to the throne, and it went to his head. This was a pretty big missed opportunity to do something different than make a stereotypically spoiled and heinous crown prince. Similarly, not much is known about The Gray Man, where he really comes from or why he turned to using dark powers or seeks to throw the world into chaos. In summation, Green Rider basically tells us that the villains of this book are bad because they are bad.  


“’It seems to me you set me on this course in the first place. You and that brooch.’

F’ryan Coblebay dimmed and flickered. No, not I. You were called.


I also really wished that Green Rider had developed any of the Green Riders more, as they are all pretty flat characters, but I especially wish the author had fleshed out F’ryan Coblebay more, whom Karigan encounters as he is dying and takes over the mission of delivering his message to King Zachary. His ghost helps Karigan out a lot on her mission, and we can sympathize with the fact that he had a lover waiting for him at home, Lady Estora, but he is unable to communicate with Karigan for most of the novel. I wished that when she had entered the Green Rider hideout, filled with uniforms, food, and journals, she had found a journal of F’ryan’s or something. Call me masochistic, but I just wanted his death to hurt me more as a reader, and to mean something more other than just serving as a way to call Karigan to the Green Riders. It was kind of a slap in the face that Karigan just passed off his love letter to Lady Estora for someone else to deliver to her, and only felt accomplishment that she had completed her mission, not much remorse for the man who died completing his mission or the woman he left behind. I found that the other deaths in the novel also didn’t hit me hard or make me feel much, which is surprising, because I’m always an emotional reader, and let’s be honest, an emotional person too. The death that hit me the hardest was not that of a person, View Spoiler ». She is also incredibly capable and confident in her own abilities, and unconcerned with what other people think of her.  I also found that I related a lot to Captain Mapstone’s weary struggle of trying to keep a bunch of young adult Green Riders in line and to get the deserving respect for the Green Riders, as an organization that has a high mortality rate and also serves the crown and king at great personal sacrifice. And as I said in my first review, I really love the horses of The Green Rider series. Author Britain excels at giving her horses personality without making them talk, and it is clear she is an animal lover herself. I loved reading Karigan’s developing bond with her horse partner more than any other relationship in the book—even that of her blossoming relationship with King Zachary. 


“Karigan had a vague suspicion she would never truly extricate herself from dealings with the dead. Ghosts, killings, and now tombs.”


Another thing I really like is all of the lore surrounding the gods in the world of  Green Rider. The people of Sacoridia worship Westrion, the bird man and God of Death, and sometimes his black steed, Salvistar. I was also really intrigued by the Tombs under the castle, which are filled with not only the dead, but powerful and magical relics, and are guarded by Weapons and cared for by eccentric people who live solely down in the Tombs, never to return to the outside world. I think the author did a great job of laying the groundwork for the importance of these tombs, which I know we return to later in the series, and I am looking forward to it. 


“It is generally believed Green Riders are a reckless lot, always galloping off into trouble. More or less it is true, and hopelessly so.”


I am also excited to continue my read through of this series before Winterlight releases. I am curious to see how well the rest of the series will live up to my initial takes on it. Though Green Rider wasn’t quite as well-written as I remembered it back then, I still had so much fun reading it and maintain that this series is a great starting point for those just dipping their toes into the fantasy genre, or maybe those who like fantasy but aren’t as fond of complex magical systems or intense explanations of world-building. Regardless, this series holds a special place in my heart and I am excited to experience the rest of The Green Rider series again and to see where Karigan ends up. 


To read my original review of The Green Rider, click here.


Reread Review : The Green Rider - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 13, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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