Green Rider


Kristen Britain


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

February 4th, 2014

bought a hardcover edition of this book at a booksale. It has some spectacular cover art by Keith Parkinson, and it sports a quote from Marion Zimmer Bradley that reads: "I like Green Rider very much. It is terrific! It's going to be the classic of the '90s as Tolkien was of the '60s." That certainly ramped my expectations up. Unfortunately, Green Rider is an uneven tale, with some good parts and some bad. Not bad for a first novel, but dwarfed by the epic Lord of the Rings. And why doesn't it have a map? Don't all good fantasy novels require a map?

Here's what is best about Green Rider: the characterization of the good guys is excellent. The heroine, named Karigan, is a plucky and determined young woman who has just been ousted from school for brawling. Marching home (by herself, on foot, across a vast and violent landscape), she meets a dying Green Rider - an official messenger for the king. The rider tells her she must deliver the important message to the king. Then he dies. Karigan takes his message, his Horse, and rides off to fulfill his dying wish. Karigan encounters all kinds of obstacles on the journey, yet manages to triumph in the end. The supporting cast is well portrayed - I enjoyed Karigan's encounters with the Berry sisters, the other Green riders, King Zachary, Karigan's father, and Alton D'Yer and the forest giant Abram. Even The Horse has a winning personality.

Another positive of this novel is its readability - the hard cover edition is 500 pages long, but it is a fast read because of the adventure and fun characters.

Unfortunately, though the good guys are well drawn, the bad guys are simply cartoon villains. They are ridiculously cruel and arrogant, seemingly motivated by nothing more than a desire to do bad. Prince Amilton and The Governor of Mirwell are especially disappointing, as the masterminds of the evil plot they ought to have a few brains. Why don't the bad guys just kill Karigan whenever they get the chance? The stark good guy / bad guy depictions made me think that this book is targeted a younger audience. Only Lorilie of the Anti-Monarchist Society has a realistic, nebulous position - neither an obvious hero nor criminal.

My other complaint with this novel are the MANY coincidences that occur. For example, near the beginning of her journey, Karigan finds herself in a desperate situation and wishes that she were invisible, and presto! She turns invisible! Plots like that ruin a story for me. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but I could easily list ten events that are extremely unlikely, whether for good or bad. Karigan sure meets a lot of helpful, powerful people (or creatures) just when she needs them most. This shallow plotting made me think the novel was intended for a much younger readers.

The world building is generic medieval Europe - castles, kings, merchants, and messengers-riding-horses. There aren't any original social customs, religions, fashions, rituals or technologies. There is no epic feel of a great land with a deep history, none of the cities or landscapes feel like real places - its just another town or forest that Karigan is riding through. Does the King Zachary's kingdom even had a name? I don't remember, even though I just finished the book yesterday.

If I see the second book in the series, I will probably read it - Karigan is interesting enough, and Britain has shown some talent at writing fast moving novels. I assume her plotting skills will improve with subsequent books, and maybe each additional book will give some depth to the kingdom.