Pros: Wonderful epic fantasy in a fantastic world!
Cons: Some of the bad guys were unnecessarily foolish
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When I received a review copy of Kristen Britain’s long-awaited First Rider’s Call, thankfully I realized that I had a copy of her previous Green Rider sitting unread on a shelf, and started with that. It was a wonderful, layered, epic fantasy novel with delightful characters, gripping action, and engaging world-building. In it, Karigan G’ladheon found herself drawn unwillingly into peril and intrigue when she swore to finish delivering a dying messenger’s missive to his king. As much as she believed herself to be a normal girl, destined to become a merchant like her father, circumstances said otherwise: one of the magical brooches of the legendary Green Riders accepted her, and she began developing some unusual abilities. Soon she was hip-deep in dark magic and political intrigue alike.
In First Rider’s Call, Karigan is still resisting the call of the Riders, and has returned to her father’s merchant clan. Until, that is, the ghost of the First Rider, Lil, calls to her so irresistibly that she ends up riding halfway to Sacor City in her nightgown! Finally unable to bear it any longer, she returns to her duties—and just in time. A sentience has awoken in Blackveil forest near the hole in the wall, and it’s testing its boundaries and waking old powers. While it goes after those trying to repair the wall, using them to its own ends, it sends others after Karigan for some unknown reason. Meanwhile, Karigan tries to keep the Green Riders functional as their Captain goes mad, their barracks burn, and their powers fail.
The appearance of the First Rider’s ghost is a delight. She definitely isn’t your standard ghostly plot device. Instead she’s fiery and mischievous, and while she has her limitations, she’s every bit as much a character in the story as any other. She’s determined to kick Karigan out of her complacency and make her do her part.
All of the wonderful characters from the first book are here, too. We get to see more of King Zachary, the various Green Riders, the Weapons, and more. The only characters who come across as a bit flimsy are some of the human bad guys. In particular, I did a bit of a facepalm when I found out they all wore identical tattoos on a very obvious location not covered by any clothing. That’s one of those things you usually see on the canonical “If I become an evil overlord” list of things NOT to do, and it’s the only thing that marred my opinion of the book.
The history of Mornhavon, however, finally revealed in this book, is absolutely wonderful. His transition from excited explorer from a distant land to evil madman is fascinating, as observed by his closest companion and friend. Because of the bits of history revealed through that companion’s journal, and through Karigan’s contact with Lil, the world is developed much more than in the previous book, and it’s delightful. It satisfied me fully with respect to the current tale, while definitely making me want to know more!
You might be able to read First Rider’s Call without reading Green Rider first, but I highly recommend picking both up and giving them a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!