Green Rider

by Kristen Britain

Cover image

Series: Green Rider #1
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: 1998
Printing: April 2000
ISBN: 0-88677-858-1
Format: Mass market
Pages: 471

Buy at Powell's Books

I had a bad feeling about this book from the endorsement by Terry Goodkind on the cover, and even more of a bad feeling from Britain's praise of Goodkind's excellence and quality in his writing, but it was a loan from a friend and I was hoping it would surprise me. Alas, not much in the way of surprise here.

It's not that this is necessarily a bad book. It's not a particularly good book, suffering from first novel problems, spotty pacing, and some shallow character stereotypes, but this isn't worse than quite a lot of other fantasy out there. No, the problem is that it's so unremittingly derivative and unoriginal that I couldn't help but keep comparing it to other, better books with the same plot elements.

Karigan G'ladheon (tell-tale apostrophe) runs away from school to start her coming of age story. She is, of course, entirely in the right, but she's driven out of school by the corrupt political establishment by offending the wrong person. She stumbles across a dying messenger who is part of the elite Green Rider corps and who gives her a message that she has to deliver. From there, there's the kindly old ladies who give her magical equipment and teach her about her hidden powers, a long journey through endless woods where she meets noble woodsmen and elves while dodging or escaping from evil mercenaries (one of whom she tries to convert back to the side of the good guys), and an eventual rescue of the king and country from the revival of dark powers. Oh, and at one point there are light sabers.

If you get the feeling you've read this book before, you're right.

There are a few moments of intriguing world-building, and a few moments of emotional satisfaction from the standard fantasy tropes that still have some power left in them. Britain does a decent job with horses and outdoor living, better than most, and the strange catacombs and guarded bodies of the dead is a mildly interesting idea. But the world is just too full of reworkings of Tolkien and company, unbelievably smug and stupid bad guys, or supposedly medieval characters with far too modern sensibilities. I had to laugh at the anti-monarchy protesters with their modern political tactics; I suppose the one advantage of that anachronism is that it's not a fantasy retread.

Britain's writing style also doesn't help. To quote the opening paragraph:

The granite was cold and rough against the gray-cloaked man's palms. It was good, solid granite, from the bones of the earth itself. He traced barely perceptible seams between the huge blocks of the wall. It was the seams, he believed, that held the key. The key to the wall's destruction.

The whole book is like this. If the repetition, simple and monotonous phrasing, too-obvious attempts at surprise, and purely serviceable descriptions don't bother you, you may not mind this book. For me, it was symptomatic of all of the other problems with the story.

This is the first book of a series (of course), which promises to drag Karigan into the "Greenies" whether she likes it or not. I had the second book in my to-read pile as well (more have not yet been published), but I'm not going to bother. Only worth looking at if you're desperately in need of a generic, simple fantasy that asks little of the reader, and I think there are better options available even for that.

Followed by First Rider's Call.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-01-22

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