Wednesday, October 24, 2018

4 Reasons Why I Enjoyed the F Outta Kristen Britain's Green Rider ~ As a Below Average Reader of Fantasy Books (Though I Want to Improve That Average Desperately, Making This a Great Start)

"On her long journey home from school after a fight that will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G'ladheon ponders her uncertain future. As she trudges through the immense Green Cloak forest, her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves, as a galloping horse bursts from the woods.  
The rider is slumped over his mount's neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king of Sacoridia.  
Before he dies, he begs Karigan to deliver the “life and death” message he bears to King Zachary. When she reluctantly he agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission, whispering with his dying breath, "Beware the shadow man...".  
Taking on the golden-winged horse brooch that is the symbol of the Green Riders, Karigan is swept into a world of deadly danger and complex magic, her life forever changed. Compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is accompanied by the silent specter of the fallen messenger and hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination."

There are times when a book's cover will just… well… summon you.  It'll be a book cover that commands you–from a bookshelf in some random bookstore–to buy and read it.  While this year I managed to find a small piece of territory in the science-fiction space opera sub-genre (bless your sweet ASS Tanya Huff for creating Torin Kerr), my itch for a strictly traditional fantasy book had yet to be fulfilled.  Until I saw a mass market copy of Kristen Britain Green Rider at my local Barnes & Noble, and immediately became enchanted and curious by its cover.  It was giving me T. A. Barron The Ancient One tease (my favorite fantasy book).  Ever hesitate from being burned before, I waited matters out.  And each visit it kept calling.  No.  Screaming actually.  

But 500 pages for a fantasy book takes determination and stamina for a reader like myself, so I needed it in the comfort of a hardback if I was going to take it on by the book's weight alone.  Ordered online.  Spent five days reading it (took a day off so it would've been four).  And it was a win!  For once, I got shit right for myself based solely off a cover.

Nevertheless, I’ve stated this before how I’m not that great at taking on fantasy novels.  Why?  Maintenance.  Upkeep.  And little much-needed reference materials to draw from as I delve into all these innovative and imaginative lanes authors have created for themselves and readers.  I always need just a little something extra to remain anchored into the story.  And I can say brevity on the exposition concerning world-building and magic systems is essential to my reading experience.  I guess that brevity is what separates the "epic" in "epic fantasy" from... well... I guess "fantasy."   Forgive my ineptitude on the subject, because Green Rider does away with all my fantasy-reading anxieties and here’s why...

"Karigan thought desperately.  She thought back to summer evenings in an empty warehouse on her father's estate where the cargo master practiced swordplay with her.  For one lesson, he left the wooden practice swords leaning against the wall and devoted the session to what she could do with her bare hands."
"'I once asked her what she wanted to do with her life,' Rendle said.  'She told me, something adventurous.  She wanted to be a merchant like her father.  It is not many children who choose to follow their parents' footsteps.'" 
"She dreamed also of her mother's ring, which Jendara wore.  Sometimes she dreamed that her mother chastised her for her carelessness.  Other times, her mother held her in a warm embrace....  How did a simple schoolgirl ever get into such a mess?"
The quick backstory of the lead character, Karigan, is simple enough.  Her father created a successful shipping business out of nothing.  This put her family in the spectrum of influence and aristocracy, though they are humble and quiet living below their means.  Her mother died some years ago, leaving just Karigan and her father.  And, also, leaving Karigan with very little baggage about the loss to mull depressingly over.  To further her educational purposes, she went to an elite school where she was later suspended because she crossed a governor's son on the practice field.  A big no-no.

So though Karigan filled the everyday shoes of the “special” girl with all the “special gifts” and “special never-before-seen talents”, Karigan was helpful as well as amiable for a nineteen-year-old leading heroine (not that age has too much to do with it).  Now it's true she got out of frantic and violent situations–like fighting a giant spider demon and being knocked unconscious one too many times–fairly smoothly.  I say it this way because, despite all the weight on her strengths and training, I wasn't thoroughly convinced of her level of resourcefulness.  In some areas, maybe.  In others,  I smelt luck.  But for the purpose of keeping things reasonable, the book is steadfast with its plotting so what had to be had to be.  I just never really felt as if she was in real danger with all the importance of her being special.  At just the right moment she would pull a new trick out her bag to get out of danger.  Granted, in some cases, brute force made her shine.  

Overall, I enjoyed spending time with Karigan as she road along struggling with her newfound and reluctant purposes as a Green Rider.  And her wrestling with her longing to quickly get back to her life paralleled to the significance of completing her task as a Green Rider who needed to deliver an important message to the king.  This duality of concerns kept her interesting.  

And yes, the side characters got a decent amount of backstory and development as well.  Then there are some who were completely dropped for the story for some odd reason.  Namely that of the assassin Karigan first came across.  You would think her later cutting his hand off would fuel him with vengeance.  However, instead, he was never brought up again.

"He brushed the layers of magic with his mind.  Magic had been melded into each block of granite from the moment it was quarried, through its cutting, finishing, and placement.  The mortar had been inlaid with strengthening spells not only to ensure that the wall stood for all time, but to prevent magic from breaking it."
"She darted from the dark side of one building to another.  She was like a phantom, fading in and out, and if anyone marked her passage through the streets of Sacor City, they might discount it later as some vision, or a trick of the eyes.  Karigan used her brooch to the full extent of its powers..."
The magic system is simple enough for me.  While there was the sort of overall magical anecdote of a dark land once locked behind a magical stone wall to keep all elements of itself at bay, the system most emphasized was that of the Green Riders.  Green Riders were essentially glorified kings and queens messengers–though without the actual glory.  In a matter-of-fact, they were looked down upon by Weapons (Guards) and Noblemen within the societal branches involved in Green Rider’s universe.  

Nonetheless, Green Riders have a touch of magic to help guide them safely throughout the highways and byways of the messenger business.  Magic mostly is contained in a winged-horse brooch they each carry individually.  And it’s in these brooches where direct and sometimes innate abilities blossom.  In Karigan’s case, her brooch allows her to become partially invisible.  In another Green Rider character, her brooch allowed her to discern a lie from the truth.  Another conceded a Green Rider to the ability of telepathy.  Pretty easy stuff here.  Nothing too, too heavy.  Or deep and ornate for the below average fantasy reader like myself.  Of course there were other probably further complex and developed magical systems that on the surface looked simple.  But as far as what Karigan needs to get the job done, there was less to muddle and overly complicate the mood.  Magical trinkets always go a long way over for me.  Especially where consequences of their use and limitations are involved.

"They skirted the edge of the woods until they met the road.  Karigan cast a cautious eye before stepping onto it.  The road was muddy gutter of cloven hoofprints, and was rutted with gullies full of water where timber sledges had grooved the surface.  They cantered as much to escape the devastation of the forest as to reach the town of North by sunset.  The absence of trees exposed them to watching eyes, and left Karigan feeling very vulnerable." 
"The common room was clean and quiet–a good sign.  Only a handful of tables was occupied.  A woman sat by the stone fireplace reading fortune cards for a burly man, and an equally burly woman.  They guffawed at whatever predictions the fortune-teller had told them.  A single musician tuned his lute in a corner.  It was hardly what she expected to find in North after what she had seen already."
Honestly, the setting appeared load with your inherent, universal preset attractions for a fantasy novel that many readers are familiar with.  You got the elf and human race.  You have kings, noblemen, warriors, bandits, assassins, mages and so on and so forth.  You have your developed towns, and not so.  Castles, dusty roads, cobbled roads, cabin-in-the-woods.  Horses.  Stables.  Farmhands.  Prostitutes in brothels.  Destroy-and-pillage type men in brothels.  Mysterious psychic women in cloaks in brothels.  Mystery women in woods who knows magic.  Not-so-dwarf-like lumberman with long gray beard and an attitude problem.  Everything you would expect.  Well, more or less.

But don’t count this as a negative, just your common-to-similar J. R. R. Tolkien-esque kind of stuff that draws you into the genre in the first place.  However, of course, Green Rider has created a world spinning on its own unique axis in space in its own unique orbit in its own unique… well… you get the point.  It served and fulfilled my fantasy novel itch with its own brand of uniqueness and little redundancy to wade through.

Consider me satisfied, chile.  The goal was met.  Plain and simple.

"The Great Arms of Mirwell, two war hammers crossed over a mountain crazed with cracks and fissures, on a field of scarlet, drew one's eye above the massive mantle.  The creation of the Arms, according to the family chronicles, coincided with the formation of the Sacor Clans before the Long War.  Clan Mirwell's ancient roots were imbued with crushing opponents, of possessing the strength to strike down the very mountains.  The Mirwells had never governed their province with a bejeweled scepter of gold, but with an iron hammer of war."
"Then King Agates Sealender, the last of his line with no heirs born to him, died of old age, and clan chief Smidhe Hillander, of Clan Hillander, ascended the throne.  That's when history went awry.  Mirwell combed his fingers through his lank gray hair.  Yes, everything changed with Clan Hillander."
And lastly, the governing system–and history as well.  It’s so easy to get marred by all the governing and political systems created in a fantasy novel.  Especially with layers upon layers upon layers of complexities piling up inside a big exposition info dump.  But you have to have kings and queens, and their residing nation struggling with political or some kind of economic issues.  Tribes and factions inner discord must be had as well.  All that necessary jazz builds problems and further coups and palace intrigue to developing characters.  Traitorous and treasonous players in question concerning his or her loyalty to the kingdom road high and strong in this book.  So Green Rider had the right amount of governing discord, without frying my brain out with all the housekeeping.   

Seriously, the book kept me reading just to find out what “intrigues of the kingdom” were bound to be uncovered.  And whether or not the delivery of Karigan's message would be received in time.  How I maintained the diplomacy of the books governing system, as well as the flowing and dissecting of power, had a lot to do with Britain's way of breezily laying out Karigan's world's governing system through her characters.  I knew what was going on, and why it was happening because of the make up of all the players.  Their histories, creeds, and motivations helped me connect with the system they were either trying to keep up or overthrow.

And that’s mostly it.  I have to leave this post and go order the second book in the series, First Rider's Call.  Still, my last thoughts about Green Rider that made it work more than anything else is the balance.  Britain knew when to switch scenes up to not only keep the branching story threads moving and relevant, but she switched scenes up just when ennui starts to ring a bell.  For instance, Karigan was a hostage on the road for quite a few chapters before Britain surprisingly switched to her father’s point-of-view in search of his missing daughter.  Something I, as the reader, never anticipated stepping into.  CHECK.  Another sweet layer to the overall story added, with many more up the road.  

Seriously, the minute my eyes were hooded, Britain would flip the scene to another point-of-view adding more goodness to this fantasy casserole.  She needed to clean up a few character story arcs, as well for those she left hanging.  So here's to what's possible in the sequel.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Total Pageviews