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Fantasy Index


A novel by Kristen Britain
(2011, Daw books)

Green Rider, book 4

A young woman is hunted as she attempts the deliver the message of a dead rider to the king before an assassination attempt.


-- First reading (ebook)
September 18th to 30th, 2012


I am getting familiar with this author, and can now appreciate the stories more, given how I know the characters after four books. I like the way she writes both the action and the politics, and the love triangle is something I think she's going to string along for many more books! A lot happens in this book, and all of it develops various characters. I just wish it hadn't ended on a cliffhanger.

Spoiler review:

I like Kerrigan, and I like the various plots that are presented in these novels. Blackveil is no exception. There is the anger Kerrigan feels toward her father for the things he has hidden from her (like the brothel and the piracy). There is her relationship with Estral (and her music) and Alton (and the wall) and the King, and Estora, and the Captain and the rest of the riders. Then we have the Eletians, and Kerrigan's relationship with them, and her enhanced magical abilities when she comes into contact with them. There is the King and Queen's marriage. And we have the threat hanging over us of Second Empire, which like Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth novels, had been whispered about, but the storm of war has not yet broken. The way this author writes, we will not witness a full scale battle, but events from the side, from Kerrigan's point of view. Or maybe new characters will enter, like Grandmother. I suppose it is inevitable that Kerrigan only brought Mornhaven a year into the future back in First Rider's Call, but it would have been difficult to keep him as a villain if she had taken him a decade or century later, which is how it seemed back then.

There is plenty of irony in the book, too. A prime example is how Amberhill decides to be charitable, because it feels good, but he ends up giving money that allows a man to rent a room for long enough to send an arrow into King Zachary's chest -where the man wouldn't have been able to do that if he'd been robbed instead, as he would have without Amberhill's intervention. Almost as an aside, Amberhill is hit with the sailing bug, as proscribed by his dragon ring, which is apparently cursed. He hires one of the pirates from the ship (seen in the last book), cleans the guy up, then rents various sailing vessels to get him close to supposedly cursed islands in the northern sea. There he is shipwrecked, and we are left in a cliff-hanger as to his fate, except that a siren-type woman has found him.

The book starts on a quiet note, as Kerrigan visits her father and aunts, delivering messages and confronting him about what she learned in The High King's Tomb. It was nice to see her father, both as a recluse and as somebody who has great responsibility. We see him again as Amberhill starts his voyage, working with his men instead of apart from them. Perhaps as an offset to the piracy he committed when he was younger, or just because he feels he owes society for his wealth, he does many good things, too, like opening the halfway house for abused women. I think Kerrigan mostly reconciled with her father, though it is hard to forgive him. He even kept the fact from Kerrigan that her mother had an Eletian moonstone.

When she gets back to the castle, she has to deal with mundane tasks, like the Riders' accounting, and she continues with her arms training, but she's also invited to the King's masquerade, being a special acquaintance, and the only Knight of the Realm. Here, she feels completely out of place, as is her nature, especially when she is dressed up in a ridiculous outfit from a well-known play. The masquerade becomes a theme throughout the novel, as she sees it several times while she is in the Blackveil forest, and the tumbler's mask takes on a special meaning at the end.

When she is selected to join the Eletians in the forest, she knows she must go, but after her last experience, she is still terrified. As she takes leave of the King, he reveals his heart to her again in just a few words. The day that she enters Blackveil, Zachary is in a foul mood, which is why he decides to go out on a hunting trip, and is hit with the arrow that incapacitates him for most of the rest of the book. I'm surprised Captain Mapstone didn't feel guilt about that, as a "distraction" was her idea.

This leads to a very interesting twist, as several of the King's most trusted advisors take it upon themselves to move up the wedding date and have Estora be crowned Queen in case Zachary dies. The political implications are well played, as there could be civil war if Zachary died without a Queen. Complicit in this is Estora's cousin, Lord Spane, who really wants all the power to himself. He blackmails Estora into doing things she would rather not do, and insists on watching her perform the wedding night acts, of which Zachary awakens long enough to share. Unfortunately, Zachary also reveals his heart that night, and Estora becomes jealous of Kerrigan for a short moment. But she also uses Kerrigan's example from the last book, disguising soldiers as helpless village people to trap Second Empire's Birch, who has been preying on border towns. I wish we could have seen more of the trap, but I guess there was enough to cover in this novel.

It's also unfortunate that we don't get to see the machinations Estora has the Green Rider Beryl Spencer undergo, but it is very satisfying to see Spane brought to vengeance at her hands, even if the details are missing.

There is also more action at the D'yer Wall, which keeps the Blackveil forest at bay. Alton has tried repairing the wall, to no avail, and the spirits of the wizards that inhabit the towers can't help, much, either. But then Estral arrives, Kerrigan's old friend, and Alton falls head over heels in love. They become lovers, which makes Kerrigan angry when she finally arrives there. But Estral is a minstrel, and her singing helps mend the wall in various places, even minutely affecting the breach. So when grandmother decided to "deal" with the singer at the wall, I feared the author would kill Estral. But it is actually much worse, as Estral loses her voice completely, it being transferred magically to the young girl grandmother is training to be the magical guide of Second Empire.

We also learn that something happened in the one tower they can't communicate with- an Eletian Sleeper awakened, but is full of the evil taint of Blackveil, and so the mage sealed it off from the rest of the wall. Estral helps Dale and Alton to get through, and Alton eventually manages to kill the creature, not knowing that it is an Eletian gone wild and evil.

That is sort of foreshadowing for Kerrigan's travels in Blackveil, because both grandmother and the Eletians want to awaken the sleepers, but in different ways. Mornhaven has instructed grandmother to awaken them with their taint from Blackveil, to wreak havoc on his enemy. The Eletians will rely on Kerrigan, who can move through the layers of the world. The spirit of the ancient Eletian queen protected a grove of sleepers in a snapshot of time, and Kerrigan is able to go back to that time to rescue them, reducing the number of evil ones unleashed upon her friends, and delivering the good sleepers to Eletia in the long-ago past.

But first she and her companions need to get to the Argenthyne castle of the Eletians of long ago. The journey takes many days, during which they are attacked by various evil creatures, lose several of their numbers (both human and Eletian), and their magical abilities are altered. Kerrigan and a rider friend get separated from the group, during which time he goes blind from his magical gift, and she hallucinates, getting them further into trouble. Meanwhile Ard, the forester from Coutre province, has been tasked by Spane to kill Kerrigan (as he learns Zachary loves her), but he doesn't take advantage of numerous opportunities, preferring that the forest take care of her. Eventually, when he does try, one of the Eletians kills him first. I did find that this part of the story was wrapped up too neatly, but I suppose some parts need to be!

The book ends on another cliffhanger, as Kerrigan faces off against Mornhaven again. This time, she is presented with a magical mask by her masquerade tumbler, one that appears to give her power to reorder the universe. Instead, she smashes it at Mornhaven's feet (how did she know it would break, and not simply bounce?), sending her companions back to Saccoridia and leaves her tumbling through space. She is caught by the god of the dead, and wakes up in a sarcophagus of some kind! I hope she is just in the tombs again, like where she hid in the last book -but who knows? We'll have to wait for the next novel in the series to find out.

With so many characters and subplots, the novel is nice and complex, with intricate webs that are interrelated in some ways, but remain separate in others. I like that kind of complex plotting, and look forward to more of it, and the further adventures of Kerrigan, Zachary, Captain Mapstone, Alton, and the others.


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