Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: "Green Rider" by Kristen Britain

Karigan G'ladheon leaves the Sacoridian university with one worry on her mind: how to explain her disgraceful expulsion to her family.

Her woes no longer seem as important when she finds a Green Rider, one of the king's messengers, dying on the road. In desperation, the Rider gives Karigan his horse, his message, and a warning: beware the shadow man. The black arrows in his back, binding him beyond the grave, signal what fate awaits her if she fails.

Carrying the dead Rider's burden, Karigan races to reach the king, pursued by unnatural forces. Ghosts and monsters block her path. But there is more to being a Green Rider than just wearing the uniform. When she accepted the dead man's mission, she gained his strange powers as well--and Karigan does not ride alone. 


2 out of 5 stars

(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Dear reader, you cannot imagine how sad I am about that low rating up there.... unless you, too, have experienced the pain of rereading a deeply beloved book and finding it not quite as magnificent as you remembered. (Which is quite likely, if you're the kind of bookaholic who reads obscure book review blogs.)

Kristen Britain's Green Rider was one of my favorite books in my teen years. While the sequels garnered less and less interest from me, I have been regularly recommending the first adventure to various fantasy-loving friends. Since someone yoinked my own copy a few years back, though, I haven't actually read it myself in some time.

When I picked it up from the library, I was already drafting this review in my head. Four or five stars, I reckoned--a high-speed, high-stakes adventure about ordinary people in extraordinary situations; a vivid and uncommon fantastical world; a story which imprinted itself so strongly onto my teenaged mind that I was still enthusing about it ten years later. 

Sadly, the book that I read last week had little in common with the book I remembered. The shining world I had imagined faded away into an unremarkable medieval-European fantasy with a few Tolkien references wedged in. The heroine, Karigan, lost her punch. As for the adventure? Forget about high speed or high stakes. The first few dozen pages go well enough, even if Karigan's mission is constantly interrupted by scenes of Vaguely Villainous Brooding. Then she runs into the Tom Bombadil(s) of Green Rider and spends a full forty pages nattering about fantastical knicknacks. It's all downhill from there.

In the end, I couldn't make it to the end of the book. I skipped ahead to find the sections that once seemed so grand and intense, and found them all rather flat and bland. An hour later, I decided that the ending wasn't worth the slog.

I cannot, in good conscience, give Green Rider a rating as low as I gave Wither. I'm disappointed by it, but it's tolerably-written. It has a sense of myth and adventure which spans beyond the actual words on the page. But if I read it for the first time, I would hardly have found anything memorable about its world, its heroine, or its story. I must condemn it to the pit of "generic YA fantasy."

Reluctantly I withdraw my recommendation.

Complexity of Writing: 2/5
Quality of Writing: 2/5
Strength of Characterization: 3/5
Logic of Plot Development: 1/5
Evocation of Setting: 2/5
Effectiveness of Pacing: 1/5
Resolution of Conflict: 2/5
Emotional Engagement: 2/5
Mental Engagement: 2/5
Bechdel Test: pass
Diverse Cast: fail
Content Warning: attempted sexual assault, gore

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