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Key Descriptors: Young Adult, adventure, horses, soft magic, quick read
Premise: A young merchant’s daughter encounters one of the king’s messengers, a Green Rider, near death on the road while running away from boarding school. When she takes on his mission as her own, she discovers monsters, magic, and some unexpected friends. As her pursuers draw ever closer on her trail, she must use her wits and the magic of the Green Riders in order to deliver the message she carries…
Review: This was an enjoyable book with a quick-paced plot. I would recommend this book for anyone who either is a teen, fairly new to fantasy, or a big fan of horses. Fans of Tamora Pierce or Mercedes Lackey should give this a look. It’s a good palette-cleanser after a long or dense novel, as well. The protagonist definitely feels very YA in some negative ways, which I’d say is the biggest flaw of the book; she’s a little bit *too much* of a teen for an adult audience, though in all fairness she grows quite a bit by the end. I think I would have eaten this book up as a teen and adored Karigan.
I loved that horses in this book weren’t relegated to being old-timey cars. Horses get tired. Horses have to eat. Horses will stumble at times that aren’t just a plot mechanic. Green Rider shines when it comes to making sure that while our non-human protagonist, The Horse, is a little smarter than average…. he’s still a shockingly realistic portrayal of an actual animal as opposed to a furry and somewhat slow Hyundai. I wish he’d been given a bit more characterization, but that may well have ruined his best aspects. I will most likely pick up the next book at some point to see if it expounds on him a bit more. Update: future books are fairly similar, though the writing quality overall increases. The overarching plot definitely starts moving forward, and very quickly.
The moments of action and adventure are engaging with a real sense of threat. There’s always uncertainty about whether Karigan will actually come out on top or if she’ll end up worse off than she was before. I enjoyed the battle scenes and watching Karigan come up with a way to… if not always win, at least to fight. Injuries do suffer a bit from being erased after serious battles, which is a peeve of mine, but usually they’re at least somewhat acknowledged… just perhaps not given the weight that they actually deserve. When her most recent battle involved a giant eldritch monstrosity dragging her god-knows-how-long by the ankle, this deserves a bit more than a casual mention of pain a chapter later. That ankle is a serious liability.
All in all, this was a solid little fantasy. The way horses are written makes it stand out compared to many similar books. While the first book is more or less stand-alone and can be read independent of the series overall, this same is not true for subsequent books.
If you enjoyed Green Rider, you might also enjoy:
- Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
- Queen’s Own by Mercedes Lackey
- Pegasus by Robin McKinley