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Review: ‘First Rider’s Call’ by Kristen Britain

February 3, 2011

Karigan G’ladheon was a Green Rider.  But she wants to be a merchant like her father more than she wants to serve as a Rider.  She resists the call until she can’t resist anymore.  After an embarrassing debacle in which the call of her Rider brooch makes her publicly humiliate herself, Karigan returns to the Rider barracks.  Captain Mapstone eventually assigns Karigan to a delegation party to the mysterious Eletians to discover why the Eletians have been seen in recent years when they have eluded Sacoridian sight for years.

The delegation goes horribly awry when a wraith appears from a haunted clearing and groundmites kill most of the party.  The wraith points out Karigan as the “Galadheon…Betrayer”.  Karigan’s ability to fade stops working during the battle, but she tells no one, feeling that it’s a passing thing.  After the carnage and bearing the terrible grief and weight of the dead, Karigan and the remainder of the delegation returns to the castle.

Magic begins to act strangely, until many of the Riders experience the failing of their abilities.  A tragedy is the horrific result of an early failing of Rider magic, and Capt. Mapstone finds she isn’t as stable as everyone thinks–and needs–her to be.  Karigan recovers from the hardships of the delegation duty only to be injured during a practice duel with King Zachary, and she finds that her confusion regarding her king is sinking to a deeper level.

Alton D’Yer is stationed at the D’Yer Wall, hoping to help repair the breach through which come all manner of evil from Blackveil.  If Alton and the Riders fail to protect the Wall, Sacoridia as they know it could be swamped with evil and end entirely.

My Thoughts:  I liked this book even better than the first.  I think Britain’s writing style improved a great deal when compared to the first novel, and it makes a difference in how the story reads.  Even though Karigan is often sidelined due to injuries, I’m still completely invested in her story because of her personality and her struggles.  I love that Karigan is a reluctant Rider–too often the hero is enthusiastic about their duty, and it gets boring after while.  Karigan doesn’t want to be a Rider, and only comes to terms with this new fate after a great deal of struggle and soul-searching.

Another strength of this book, which really could have turned into a weakness if not done correctly, is that Britain pulls in the struggles and perspectives of other characters besides Karigan, much more so than she did in the first book.  We learn much more about the personalities of Laren Mapstone, Alton and his family, King Zachary, and Mara, to name the big players.  It is satisfying to learn more about the others in a thrilling and engrossing way, so that the diversions from Karigan aren’t so much annoying diversions but captivating side stories.

Britain doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities, either.  While not exactly thrilling, it does add an element of realism to the story.  We don’t necessarily want anyone to die, but everyone knows that death happens.  Britain’s characters die left and right.  Death is something of a theme in this series, considering Karigan’s penchant for dealing with ghosts and such.

I also like that Britain develops the romantic element more in this story.  It was hinted to in the first book, but Karigan did not really have a love interest per se.  Now she does, and Britain masterfully manipulates the drama and emotions of her characters to reflect the turmoil of the relationships.  What maddens me is that I am now completely invested in this relationship (I won’t tell you who Karigan is in love with–if you’ve read Green Rider you can probably take a guess, but I’ll leave it a surprise), yet Britain throws a wrench in the whole equation that sends things off in another direction.  Maddening, but I can’t wait to read more to find out what happens!

What makes this only a 4-star read for me is that there are some places where the reading is slowed.  It’s interesting to read about Blackveil at times, but sometimes I skipped those chapters or just skimmed through.  I was too eager to find out what happened next in the story to read through Mornhavon’s thoughts and experiences.  Most of the early Blackveil chapters are consisting of the same things anyway–Mornhavon’s experiences.  Those chapters didn’t begin to get interesting for me until at least half-way through the book.

Aside from that one complaint, I loved this book!  I will absolutely be reading it again.

Buy from Amazon * Author Info * GoodReads

Book info: published 2003, 596 pages, ISBN 0756401933

Copy is from personal library

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