On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G’ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount’s neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a “life and death” message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission “for love of country.” As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, “Beware the shadow man…”
Karigan’s promise changes her life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, and accompanied by the silent specter of the original messenger, she herself becomes a legendary Green Rider. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination. [Goodreads]
Spoiler Free Review:
Content Warnings: attempted sexual assault
My best friend always tries to get me to read this book/series in high school, but I never wanted to because I thought the covers were ugly! After I got into reading again, I tried it out and really loved the series overall. The seventh book is finally coming out in September, so I am rereading one book a month leading up to that.
This first book was not my favorite the first time I read the series, and honestly, it is never going to be. I think it is a very good introduction to Karigan, the main character, as well as to the current status of the world this is set in, but there are a fair amount of issues.
The pacing of this book makes it really hard to get fully invested in. For the first half of the book, Karigan is more or less alone, travelling back to the King to deliver a message. She runs into some interesting and scary things along the way and she is also being chased, so the whole journey feels like “what is Karigan going to encounter next?”. The second half of the book is different, but it also feels like it takes forever. It had kind of a Return of the King ending, where you think one thing is the ending scene, then there is another ending scene.
There are chapters from the villains’ points of view, which honestly, I could have done without. The prologue (or just first chapter) is one of the villain chapters, which I think would have sufficed. There were too many throughout the book.
I do like that this book sets up a lot of the relevant characters for the rest of the series. There are some minor characters, like a random child that Karigan meets, that I’m curious to see if they’ll pop up in the rest of the series later on.
This book really does serve as an introduction to Karigan. She runs away from school because she beat the governor’s son in a duel, and got suspended for it. She does this without really thinking it through, so she is definitely a little naïve when it comes to the way the world actually works. Part of this is also due to how insanely rich her father is. I definitely thought the discussion of his wealth was SO over the top.
One thing I noticed that I didn’t think about before is that women in this world are definitely not treated equally, but they are in some positions of power. The leader of the Green Riders is one of the King’s closest advisors and many of the Green Riders themselves are women. There is an elite force, called Weapons, that protect the king, some of which are women. Class still plays a role in what women are allowed to do, but at least there is no classic fantasy “women can’t become soldiers/fighters/etc.” trope.
I’m definitely excited to keep going with my reread! I enjoyed the next two books, The First Rider’s Call and The High King’s Tomb, more than this book the first time around, so I’m assuming I’ll feel the same.