Tuesday, April 25, 2017

First Rider's Call, by Kristen Britain

As you might remember, I reviewed a book some time ago called Green Rider, the first in a series by Kristen Britain. I remember thinking the main character, Karigan, seemed to stumble from one crisis to the next while usually requiring help from other people, but overall I thought it wasn't that bad. At the encouragement of the friend who suggested I read this series in the first place, I decided to read the second book, First Rider's Call, which is set about two years after the events of the first book.

When we left Karigan at the end of Green Rider, she had refused the Call to Adventure and had gone back to live with her father and work with their merchant clan's business. At the time I had expressed some frustration because of our heroine's decision to turn down a very literal call. Fortunately I was not the only one and the book begins with the very irate ghost of the First Rider finally rousing Karigan to answer the call and join the Green Riders, which I found very hilarious. The rest of the book involves Karigan mostly resigned to her role as a Green Rider. There is some grumbling on her part, but it seems like she's accepted this is the path that's been chosen for her.

There were a couple of things I really liked about this book and I think I found it somewhat better than the first one. The biggest thing is a time travel plot which you don't see a lot in fantasy. Sci-fi it's very common but I think I'd be hard pressed to name more than a couple of examples of time travel in a fantasy series. The result is we learn more about the history of the world Britain has created and the history of the Green Riders as well. Sprinkled through these books are journal entries from an imperial official which, while initially confusing, you begin to see how they're connected to the rest of the narrative and become that much more interesting. Plus I'm always a sucker for a good time-travel plot so this book definitely had that going in its favor.

I also feel like Karigan didn't stumble as much from crisis to crisis in this book. There are points where she's helpless and needs to be rescued by others, but I was left with the feeling Karigan had far more agency in this book than she did in the previous one. I'm not so crazy about her being the Chosen One Super Special Snowflake, at least that's kind of the vibe that I got from the book, but I'm not a big fan of Chosen Ones in the first place so that's hardly a surprise. I feel like we get to see Karigan develop as a character and there is promise she'll develop into a fine leader in later books.

One thing I did notice was Britain seemed to be pushing the relationship between Karigan and King Zachary really hard, especially when we find out the First Rider and the first high king were romantically involved which creates further parallels between the two characters. You know, beyond both of them sharing the same magical brooch. On some level I'm okay with it because while I'm not a huge fan of romance plots, they don't bother me overmuch. The problem is when, especially towards the end of the book, this gets played for all sorts of drama between Karigan and Zachary which promises to continue well into later books. I'm not a huge fan of the endless drama sort of romance plots so I'm certainly not looking forward to that.

Overall though, I enjoyed this book. It had been a while since I'd read the first one so some of the details had gotten a little fuzzy, but I thought it was pretty good. Definitely better than some of the other fantasy novels I've slogged through.

- Kalpar

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