Reread Review : First Rider’s Call

Reread Review : First Rider’s CallFirst Rider's Call (Green Rider, #2) by Kristen Britain
Published by DAW on August 3rd 2004
Pages: 596
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three-stars

GHOSTLY RIDERS
Karigan G'ladheon had been a Green Rider, one of the king of Sacoridia's elite magical messengers. Being a Green Rider was more perilous than Karigan had ever imagined, for a rogue Eletians had cracked the magical D'Yer Wall which had protected Sacoridia for a thousand years from the evil influence of Blackveil Forest--the arboreal prison of Sacoridia's ancient enemy Mornhaven the Black--and had brought the threat of dark magic into the land. In the messenger service she had been caught up in a world of deadly danger, and though she had defeated the Eletian, she had nonetheless been tainted by his wild magic.
Exhausted in body and spirit, and determined to be the mistress of her own destiny, Karigan has returned to her home in Corsa. But Karigan's determination was no match for the Rider's call. Ghostly hoofbeats echoed in the deep regions of her mind, and when she awoke to find herself on horseback halfway to Sacor City--in her nightgown--she finally gave in.
Back at court Karigan found the Green Riders weakened and diminished. Rider magic was becoming unreliable, and she herself was having ghostly visions--visions of a strong woman with wild flowing hair and a blue and green tartan draped across her shoulder, pinned with a golden brooch. This woman was no stranger to Karigan nor would she have been to any Green Rider, for she was Lil Ambriodhe, First Rider, and founder of the Green Rider corps. But why was she appearing to Karigan? And would Karigan be able to seek the help of a woman who had been dead for a thousand years?

Next up in my reread of the Green Rider series, is the sequel to Green Rider, First Rider’s Call. I found First Rider’s Call to be a bit of a mixed bag, as far as sequels go. On the one hand, I thought the writing was a little bit better, with less telling, but on the other hand, I thought there were some odd narrative choices that stunted Karigan’s development. Despite those decisions, I still found Karigan to be an admirable heroine, but one who is realistically young and has growing up to do. 

 

The weirdest decision in First Rider’s Call was the eponymous inclusion of the first rider, Lil Ambriodhe. As Lil was the founder of the Green Rider organization, and is long dead and buried, I didn’t really care for her appearance—it felt unnecessary. Lil guides Karigan to hold the Green Riders together in this time of strife—wild magic seeping into the world and forces of evil reappearing and hunting down the Riders—but this guidance often ruins Karigan’s developing sense of agency. In some cases, Lil even takes control of Karigan’s body, and forces her to fight and act. So in a way, the heroine of this novel doesn’t really feel like the actual heroine in a lot of cases, as she’s being carried by other, more experienced forces. 

 

“It was spirit that made Karigan such a good Rider, but it was her lapses of common sense that tended to get her in trouble. Maybe it wasn’t just lapses of common sense . . . The girl was a magnet for trouble. Whatever the case, for however long Karigan answered the Rider call, she sensed things would be quite interesting around here.”

 

Which is really a shame, because I like Karigan as a person. As First Rider’s Call begins, readers learn Karigan insisted on finishing her education and working as a merchant before finally joining up with the Green Riders officially. I really respected her decision to put herself first and to give herself further tools at her disposal by finishing her education. In fact, her experience as a merchant even comes in handy for the Green Riders, where she ends up taking on more responsibility to run the Green Rider “household,” so to speak, and to tally the figures. I also really respect that despite the fact that author Kristen Britain is rushing at breakneck speed to get Karigan into a relationship with either Alton or King Zachary, Karigan always takes her time to figure out what she wants, whether romantically or career-wise. 

 

Admittedly, she’s never allowed very much time. In First Rider’s Call, Karigan comes to the realization that she has fallen in love with King Zachary and my eyebrows couldn’t help but raise. I don’t understand how anyone could fall in love so quickly with someone they barely have access to, let alone actually interact with, but that’s exactly what both Karigan and Zachary do—fall in love with each other. First Rider’s Call implies that it was love at first sight for them, and maybe a little bit of destiny, as their relationship would echo Lil’s with her King, but it didn’t work for me this time around. The second book of the series feels too soon for Karigan and Zachary to fall in love, especially when she almost entered into a relationship with Alton (for reasons other than the young adult love triangle requirement, I don’t understand), and the King is required to marry someone of noble blood, which Karigan most certainly is not. 

 

“While others might not think twice about it, she respected herself too much to get caught up in such entanglements….And while it was within his authority as king to command anything of her, he did not, and he being the sort of man he was, she didn’t think he would. It made the loss of him all the more crushing.”

 

Though in my first read through of this series, I ardently loved the relationship between Zachary and Karigan, now that I’m older I can’t help being uncomfortable with it. King Zachary appears to be about a decade to fifteen years older than young Karigan, who is quite impressionable. Plus, he’s technically her boss, as the Green Riders owe allegiance to solely the King, after their own captain. So not only is King Zachary interested in someone quite younger than him, but someone who is very new to the Green Riders, and is his subordinate. Karigan herself recognizes that he could simply order her to be his mistress, and as she has sworn an oath to serve her King and country, she would have to obey. This unequal power dynamic in the relationship, combined with her lack of experience, age, and the fact that they have not had much interaction, felt more icky than romantic to me. If King Zachary really cared for Karigan, he would think of her career and reputation as a newly minted Green Rider before confessing his feelings for her. View Spoiler » Luckily, Karigan uses her head and recognized that she deserved more than the situation being offered to her, which is more than most heroines ever do in novels. I really respect that about Karigan, and think that it sets her apart from her contemporaries. 

 

Outside of the romantic battlefield, Karigan still has a lot on her plate. The Green Riders quickly realize that the magic seeping from the broken D’yer Wall has allowed the great evil of Mornhavon the Black to awaken. First Rider’s Call gives readers an inside look at Mornhavon’s descent into madness through the journal of his closest friend, Hadriax, who ends up being Karigan’s ancestor. Though I found this look into the past interesting and obviously chilling, I don’t think that First Rider’s Call did a good job showing what the catalyst was for Mornhavon becoming so evil. Yes, his father, the Emperor, stopped supporting his son’s campaign in this new world, but I don’t feel that this was enough to make Mornhavon lose his entire grip on morality. Likewise, the present day villains have similarly weak motivations. The Second Empire, as they call themselves, is led by someone in somewhat a position of power in the castle, but there isn’t much insight into why he wants to revive Mornhavon’s empire other than that his ancestors were originally a member of that society.

 

To me, that doesn’t seem like nearly enough of a reason to want to revive a dead Empire and to form a cult-like society dedicated to doing that, especially one that could cost him a well-placed job in the castle. I also don’t even know if this man was the one that created the organization, or if he grew up being taught by his parents to follow in the footsteps of Mornhavon, or if he has a family at home or literally anything about him other than that he greatly delights in abusing his administrative power at work. There’s simply no background context on this character, other than that he has an ancient necklace from his ancestor of that time period. It’s a shame because it almost feels like these villains simply exist for Karigan to deal with and then disappear with very little lasting effect. I know from having read the series before that a larger villain appears in the series, and I am hoping I will find this character to be more fleshed out than any of the villains I have encountered in the series so far. 

 

I also can’t help but feel that most of First Rider’s Call feels primarily like a young adult fantasy novel. But then, there are instances that are much more adult. For instance, in First Rider’s Call a lord-governor is sanctioning soldiers to remove refugees from his land, and refusing to discipline them for immoral behavior. These solders help themselves to refugee females for their own pleasure, even taking eight year old girls, who never return. First Rider’s Call does not shy away from admitting that these women, and sometimes children, are raped and then disposed, and it feels jarring in the midst of the more young adult tone that pervades the rest of the novel, what with its young heroine, forced love triangle, and banter among the poorly developed, flat characters of the Green Riders. There are also graphic depictions of violence, often towards the poor Green Rider’s horses that I personally could’ve done without and also seem out of place in the young adult atmosphere. I wish the series would decide whether it wants to be a darker, adult fantasy or wants to stick with the more young adult atmosphere, as these introductions of the grittier and more violent aspects of the world continually feel out of place to me. Perhaps as the series progresses, it will find more of a middle ground between these genres and it will feel more natural.

 

Overall, I do think First Rider’s Call is a fairly solid sequel to Green Rider, but that the novel suffers from some poor choices. Mostly, I think Karigan and Zachary’s relationship moves too fast, that Lil shouldn’t have been the driving force of the novel, and that making Karigan the descendant of a traitor to Mornhavon the Black was unnecessary. I think the series should focus more on Karigan as a person, one who has a pretty good head on her shoulders for such a young age, instead of making her all of these other “special” things, like the first rider’s link to the present, the descendant of a traitor, etc., etc.. To me, she is already pretty special as a normal girl who gets thrown into a completely different world, into a dangerous career field, and manages to have no small measure of success. Throw in too many special titles and it simply gets harder to relate to the character or to take pleasure in her accomplishments. 

 

 

Other Reviews in the Series:

To read my original review of Firebrand, click here.

To read my original review of The High King’s Tomb, click here.

To read my original review of First Rider’s Call, click here. 
To read my original review of  Green Rider, click here.

 

To read my newest, Reread Review of Green Rider, click here.

 

three-stars
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Posted August 16, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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