Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Rider's Call (Kristen Britain)

First Rider's Call
(The Green Rider series, Book 2)
Kristen Britain
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: After her traumatic adventures with the Green Riders of King Zachary - adventures involving magic, ghosts, monsters, and worse - Karigan G'ladheon tried returning to the life she'd left, that of a wealthy merchant's daughter. But the call of the Riders, the hoofbeats pounding through her dreams, refuses to release her so easily. Even the spirit of Lil Ambriodhe, first of the Green Riders, adds her voice to their summons... until Karigan wakes to find herself astride her horse Condor, halfway to the castle in Sacor City, clad only in her nightgown. Reluctantly, she finally cedes defeat, once more donning the golden brooch and green cloak.
She returns to a different city than the one she left. The Rider numbers are dwindling, their secret powers growing unreliable. The court of young King Zachary rumbles not just with the usual intrigues - alliances made and broken, ambitious lord- and lady-governors jockeying daughters for the bachelor ruler's favor - but with darker tales. The breach in the ancient D'yer Wall between Sacoridia and the cursed Blackveil Forest remains, the arts of repairing the magically-enhanced structure lost to the years, and through it dark influences spread over the land. Soon, the undead enemies of Sacoridia shall stir from their imprisoning tombs, bringing to bear powers that none alive know how to defeat. In desperation, Karigan must turn again to her strange bond with the spirit world... but can even the ghost of Lil Ambriodhe save the kingdom from a thousand-year-old evil?

REVIEW: A worthy enough sequel to a good fantasy, First Rider's Call picks up some time after the first book ended. Britain includes enough refreshers in the narrative to bring readers back into her world and its many characters... enough that new readers might even be able to enjoy it. This tale, like the first, has a few lulls in the action, but not enough to derail the story. The history of Sacoridia and the force behind the Blackveil come into play, as does the reason for Karigan's strange bond with Lil Ambriodhe's spirit; both are related without excessive infodumps. Britain builds a world that is both familiar and unique, putting some nice original touches on the usual quasi-medieval fantasy realm. As for the characters, they did their jobs, and were mostly rounded enough to genuinely care about... and if Karigan grew a bit irritating by refusing to accept what's laid out in front of her, well, it's hardly the worst case of Plot-Extending Stubbornness I've ever read. While, of course, there's every hint of a third book, enough wraps up here that I could walk away satisfied. I suppose I ought to keep an eye peeled for Book 3 next time I visit Half Price Books...

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