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Green Rider
Kristen Britain
DAW Books, 512 pages

Green Rider
Kristen Britain
Kristen Britain can be found in Maine paddling a canoe in stillwater, ambling through woods to mountain summits, or sitting along the rocky shore listening, watching, and daydreaming. Green Rider is her first novel.

Kristen Britain's Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

When Karigan G'ladheon is suspended from her exclusive school for fighting, she decides to take matters into her own hands and run away. As she journeys through the great forest called the Green Cloak, a rider with two black arrows in his back comes bursting through the trees. With his dying breath, he binds her to an oath: deliver the message he carries to Zachary, King of Sacoridia. He gives her his horse and the winged brooch he wears; emblem of the Green Riders, the legendary messengers of the King. He also gives her a warning: Beware the shadow man.

Karigan begins to regret her oath when her new horse, who seems to have a better idea of where to go than she does, insists on choosing his own route. She regrets it even more when she's nearly captured by members of the local militia, who are searching for the dead Green Rider. Escaping, she discovers that the Rider's brooch has somehow given her the power to become invisible. The forest trail -- or perhaps the horse -- delivers her to a vine-covered manor house, inhabited by two elderly sisters who, it turns out, know quite a lot about the Green Riders. They explain the group's history and the fact that, whether she likes it or not, Karigan is now a member of this group. Uncertain of her vocation, pursued by mercenaries and accompanied by the spirits of Green Riders past, Karigan continues her journey, arriving at the court of King Zachary. Her adventure doesn't end there, for Zachary's jealous older brother is plotting the King's overthrow. It is up to Karigan, King Zachary, and the Green Riders to thwart this usurper, and turn back the tide of sorcery.

Green Rider is lively fantasy. The narrative clips along at a good pace, and there's plenty of adventure and magic to keep the reader turning pages. Minor characters are nicely drawn, and major ones are very appealing, especially Karigan, who rises to the occasion again and again with admirable bravery and determination. If some of the plot elements (the ancient evil confined and now released, the attempted overthrow of the good king by the corrupt pretender) seem a little generic, others are much more original. The Riders themselves, with their mysterious magic and ancient heritage, are a fascinating creation, and Britain eschews the cliché of the medieval fantasy setting, combining 16th and 18th century elements into a culture with a strong Scottish feel to it. There's even an eco-message stitched into the plot, giving a contemporary resonance to this high-fantasy story.

Green Rider does suffer a bit from first-novel unevenness. The writing is awkward at the outset, and the pace a bit slow. But Britain's technique noticeably improves over the course of the story, and by the book's end she has settled into a swift, easy style.

Refreshingly, the book doesn't finish on a cliffhanger, but neatly ties up all its story threads, for a satisfying ending. Plenty of room is left, however, for a sequel. I'm already looking forward to another installment in this fresh new series.

Copyright © 1998 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.

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