Reread Review : The High King’s Tomb

Reread Review : The High King’s TombThe High King's Tomb (Green Rider, #3) by Kristen Britain
Published by DAW on November 1st 2007
Pages: 679
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two-stars

For Karigan G'ladheon, the call of magic in her blood is too strong to resist. Karigan returns to the Green Riders, the magical messengers of the king, to find she's badly needed. Rider magic has become unstable, many Riders have been lost, and the Rider corps is seriously threatened. The timing couldn't be worse. An ancient evil, long dormant, has reawakened, and the world is in peril. Karigan must face deadly danger and complex magic to save the kingdom from certain doom.

I remembered The High King’s Tomb as being one of my original favorites of the Green Rider series, but found I didn’t think the novel was quite as strong on this reread. Though I still love Karigan and her adventures, I thought the pacing of this novel was lacking and was further disappointed with the telling versus showing writing style. However, I enjoyed the showing of the new villain of the novel, Grandmother, the delving into more of the gods of Sacoridia, as well as the return to the mysterious tombs beneath the castle. 

 

I think the biggest thing that The High King’s Tomb suffers from is poor pacing. I found that not much happened until about 90% of the way through the novel. Up until that point, much of the novel felt like filler. Karigan does set off on a mission with a new Green Rider named Fergal, but it’s nothing of dire importance. Even Captain Mapstone tells readers that she merely sent Karigan on this mission to get her away from King Zachary, but more on that later. Fergal, Karigan’s protege, is completely obnoxious in every possible way imaginable, and greatly lessened my enthusiasm for the novel. I realize that Fergal was merely a tool to show how much Karigan had grown into her own as a Rider, but I didn’t care for him or his characterization as a “knacker’s son.”

 

 I especially did not like that Fergal “accidentally” punches Karigan during a brawl. I really didn’t find this physical violence, nor Alton’s striking of Dale, acceptable at all. I don’t understand why the author had to include male Green Riders smacking their female counterparts like a good idea, especially in the case of Alton, who was even supposed to be a love interest for Karigan in the beginning of the series. It’s just not a good look for the Green Riders, who are supposed to be the heroes and underdogs of the story. Even more disappointing, is that two men never receive any consequences for their violence, and both Karigan and Dale seem to easily forget the incidents and to write them off due to the situation or heat of the moment. It’s troubling to me how The High King’s Tomb glosses over this violence.

 

“‘I think Captain Mapstone’ he said in a wry tone, ‘ you should take over the job of running the country. After all you seem to be running my life pretty well.’

‘I must decline, Your Highness. Running your life is pleasure enough.'”

 

Another thing that The High King’s Tomb doesn’t spare much time for is Captain Mapstone’s realization of the mutual feelings between Karigan and Zachary. We never witness Captain Mapstone making the connection that these two harbor romantic feelings for each other, which seems like a no brainer to include for drama and entertainment purposes. Instead, Captain Mapstone simply tells readers in moments of her perspective, that she realized their feelings through careful observation. This is one of those times where I really wished the author didn’t rely so much on the “telling” the readers the story, as I would’ve loved to see Captain Mapstone’s initial realization and reaction, and what exactly triggered it. Instead, readers are left with the crumbs of the juicy story, and just get to witness Captain Mapstone trying to keep Karigan and King Zachary apart through burning their correspondence, refusal to pass on verbal messages, and sending Karigan away on missions as much as possible.

 

“She didn’t care if Zachary had a dozen mistresses as long as love did not divert him from doing the right: marrying Lady Estora and producing heirs. And just so long as one of those mistresses wasn’t one of her Riders.”

 

Reading this as an adult, I found Captain Mapstone’s interference a little ridiculous.  Though the Captain makes excuses for her behavior, saying that Karigan could even get hurt if she appears to be in the way of King Zachary and Lady Estora’s betrothal, I really didn’t buy that. Zachary has had affairs before his betrothal, with none of those ladies viewed as a threat to the betrothal at all. And Lady Estora is given the benefit of a conversation with Captain Mapstone to confess her previous love affair with Fryan to King Zachary. So If the Captain cared for Karigan’s safety and well-being at all, wouldn’t she simply have a conversation with her Rider to show concern instead of sending her away on missions? Captain Mapstone states many times that Karigan has a penchant for trouble and has gained the attention of Mornhaven and his followers, so why would she send Karigan away on missions with only a newbie Green Rider as back up, just for the excuse of getting her away from Zachary? 

 

The way this was handled by Captain Mapstone was out of character for the usually direct and straightforward Captain. Moreover, it really just didn’t seem like an adult or responsible way to deal with the problem of their romantic feelings. I also didn’t feel it was fair to Karigan, who not only refused the King’s advances, but also should have deserved the same respect, if not more, than was afforded to Lady Estora, who wasn’t even a Rider. I just felt that Captain Mapstone should have had a greater duty to look after her own Rider’s best interests, over the future Queen’s, and that of the King’s. As I mentioned in my reread review of First Rider’s Call, I really feel that Zachary’s romantic interest in Karigan was an unintentional abuse of power, and no one is protecting poor Karigan from it but herself. Thank goodness the girl has enough sense not to get entangled with a newly betrothed king. Despite some wisdom in her love life, Karigan doesn’t have a whole lot to go around, and she often is judgmental and self-righteous. It made Estora, Zachary’s bride-to-be, easier to sympathize with, especially when Karigan treats her confused friend with reserve and resentment.

 

“Estora had always known it would be this way. She had known since she was a little girl that she would be paired with a man not of her choosing. the knowing, however, was not the same as the reality.”

 

The standouts of The High King’s Tomb for me were the introductions of Grandmother, the leader of the Second Empire, and of Zachary’s cousin, Lord Amberhill. Both of these characters are far more developed than the other villains of the Green Rider series thus far, but unfortunately, that is not saying much. Grandmother is particularly interesting to me, as she uses yarn magic to carry out a lot of her evil deeds. I still don’t particularly understand why any of the Second Empire wants to bring back Arcosia and Mornhavon other than that they don’t quite care for King Zachary and the peace, but it’s nice to see a more interesting villain emerge from this organization. Lord Amberhill, I hesitate to call a villain, as he seems more of a likable antihero than anything, but he’s certainly spiced things up with his morally gray appearances so far. 

 

Especially because no one is particularly happy in this entry in the series. Karigan is woefully unhappy at Zachary’s impending nuptials to her former friend Estora,  shocked at elements of her father’s past, and salty at the prospect of training a new Green Rider. And both Zachary and Estora are also unhappy at their own betrothal, as it is a marriage of mere convenience. Likewise, Alton is completely miserable and obsessed with fixing the wall, which doesn’t want his help. Dale is unhappy as she was gravely injured in First Rider’s Call, and finds herself having to look after Alton’s poor personal hygiene and well-being, as well as being his intermediary at the Wall. It’s just a whole lot of the characters, who aren’t particularly well-developed to begin with, moping around and not accomplishing a whole lot. I would definitely classify the Green Rider series as a whole as a plot driven novel, rather than a character driven one, and it is especially so in The High King’s Tomb, but unfortunately there isn’t much plot going on in this novel.

 

“Problem was, if she really saw Salvistar, it could only mean trouble. Like Karigan, the death god’s steed was a messenger, but he only brought one message: strife, battle, death.”

 

I did enjoy aspects of the plot, mainly near the end, such as Karigan’s return to the tombs under the castle, and the appearance of Salvistar, the god of death’s famous black stallion. All of the descriptions of Salvistar were simply so majestic and this is the kind of thing I want to read about in a book with magical horses–not horse slaughterers and people riding their horses to death, both of which are sadlypresent in this novel. Though I really enjoyed Karigan’s interaction with Salvistar, I worry that she is getting a little too magical and amazing too quickly in this book. I always hestitate to use the term Mary Sue, because I do believe it’s mainly an anti-feminist term, but as they say, if the shoe fits….Though The High King’s Tomb does try to “blame” Karigan’s abilities and connections with the Gods on her Rider brooch, it doesn’t seem plausible. No other Rider has abilities on the level of Karigan’s, not even her predecessor, F’ryan, who wore the same brooch as her. It is never stated that F’ryan had the ability to fade as Karigan does, or to commune with the dead. Likewise, other Riders are not contacted by Gods, ghosts, or able to make use of old magic’s such as the Wild Ride. It’s all a bit much for someone who is such a new Rider.

 

“He’d thought her brave but a fool. Though he’d detected her skill with a sword…he’d little understood what he’d really been facing. Not just a Green Rider, but someone who obviously dealt with powers, otherwordly powers. No ordinary messenger was she.”

 

Though I feel that there is room for improvement in The High King’s Tomb and the Green Rider series as a whole, I still find them really enjoyable reads, almost in spite of themselves at times. Though I greatly enjoyed The High King’s Tomb in my initial reading of the series, upon this reread I have found it to be the weakest entry in the series mainly due to its glaring pacing issues, which sadly made most of the book feel like filler. I also couldn’t help but to be disappointed at the continuously lackluster character development and perpetual telling versus showing. I hope with the introduction of better villains, such as Grandmother and Lord Amberhill, that the series will become more exciting in future installments.

 

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 —

 

two-stars
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Posted August 20, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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