After impressing King Zachary with her courage in Green Rider, Karigan G’ladheon has been sent north on a diplomatic mission. When her companions make the bad decision to camp in a magical place, a dark supernatural force is inadvertently loosed upon the world. It seems to be linked to Mornhavon the Black, who used evil magic to try to conquer Sacoridia a thousand years ago. Back then he was captured and walled into the Blackveil Forest, but now he is working his way free through a breach in the wall. Karigan’s friend Alton D’Yer has been sent to the wall to try to repair it. Meanwhile the whole country is experiencing strange magical events that are frightening the people and undermining their faith in the king. The Riders are experiencing problems with magic, too — suddenly their powers have become unreliable. And, most frightening of all, there’s a secret band of Sacoridians who have been waiting for generations to help Mornhavon the Black return.
First Rider’s Call (2003), the second of Kristen Britain’s GREEN RIDER series continues Karigan’s adventures as a Green Rider. This is a long book (19½ hours in the audio version I listened to) that will appeal to those who liked Green Rider. The setting is well developed and I felt immersed in Britain’s world. In First Rider’s Call, we learn more of Sacoridia’s history and legends. Some of this history was cleverly related through ancient journal entries of the best friend of the man who became Mornhavon the Black.
Karigan continues to be a strong but stern character. I was hoping I’d warm up to her a bit in this second book, but I still found her difficult to embrace. She’s courageous and loyal, skilled at everything she does (even sword fighting), but she’s almost completely rigid and humorless. There’s not much to make her interesting other than a talent for staying alive. Men fall in love with her and people are afraid to get in her way, but I’m not really sure why they think she’s so awesome. When she gives a 30 second speech about how we’re-all-in-this-together-and-we-will-overcome, she sets the Riders’ hearts aflutter, but I thought it dull and trite. I’m afraid that Karigan’s personality is a stumbling block for me. I like her world, but I don’t really care enough about Karigan to want to spend more time with her. Her love interests, King Zachary and Alton D’Yer are more inspiring, but they are also unrelievedly good.
Kristen Britain’s writing does its job without calling attention to itself in either a positive or negative way. There’s nothing wrong with it except that it tries too hard to sound archaic. If you’re looking for beauty, you won’t find it here; “utilitarian” is a better description of Britain’s style. The plot is fast-paced but relies too often on deus ex machina involving ghosts and time travel. Villains are easily vanquished and we never really fear for our favorite heroes. Still, First Rider’s Call is a cozy high epic fantasy that will likely appeal to many, especially women since it contains a strong heroine.
The audio version is read by Ellen Archer who uses Irish and English accents for most of the characters. As long as you don’t mind these accents, you’ll probably enjoy this audio version. Archer gives a nice performance.