Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novela by Kristen Britain
(2018, Daw books)

Green Rider, book 6.5

Mourning her father’s death, Estora finds herself in a strange party of dreamers where she lets go of some of her guilt.


-- First reading (ebook)
February 1st to 5th, 2022


Two things surprised me about this set of stories. One was how impressive the introductions were, with the insight into the family that is the author’s book publisher and those that it supports. The praise from the author herself, Julie Czerneda (whose stories I enjoy), as well as her recollections of how the Green Rider series started were mesmerizing, and reminiscent of how my own books have come to life. The second was in the titular Dream Gatherer novella, which I quite enjoyed, despite the presence of the Berry sisters, whom I haven’t enjoyed when we’ve seen them in this series. As far as I’m concerned, the less said of these sisters, the better. But the story that they set in motion, with their dream gatherer magical device, gave Estora a chance to grow, something she hasn’t managed to do in the few stories she’s been in. Bringing Alton and Estora together, and showing her how she’s helped Kerrigan and others through song was intriguing and satisfying. The story itself was a little simplistic, but I can forgive it because of how it helps Estora come to terms with her grief, her guilt, and will hopefully allow her to move forward from the events of Firebrand with some strength. It was an interlude, but hopefully it will be referenced in the next book. (Not related to content, I have to complain about the price, which is what I would normally pay for an entire book, not a novella, which was disappointing.)

Spoiler review:

It’s strange that I would enjoy the author’s notes and include them as part of the book’s content, but here it is. Story ideas come about in all kinds of ways, and I suppose most people don’t do anything about it. But something drives authors to write the stories down, and I’m glad Kristen Britain is one of those, in addition to somebody who can write well. I’m always intrigued by how books make their way from story to publication. I took a different road, with self-publishing I have very little to offer as publicity, compared to a publishing company, and I often wonder if I should have done things differently. The introduction by Julie Czerneda, whom I have just started reading, was lovingly written as a friend, and I suppose it should be as family in such a tight community. Interesting, and makes me want to learn more.

The first story, Wishwind, is a very short one about a captain trying to get troops to the Long War a thousand years ago, where his ship is wrecked and he finds himself with a witch, who teaches him gardening, something that soothes his soul, not just his hurts. I wonder what happened to him, as he probably came out of the encounter stronger than he would have otherwise. As a Green Rider, he has a power, which he has only ever used to destroy things. But she teaches him to use his fire as a spark, rather than a fireball. After many days with the witch, when he’s learned this lesson, he’s released and finds his crew on the beach, where he starts a fire for them, and they are seen and rescued.

The second story, Linked, On the Lake of Souls, is the story told by Estora to Kerrigan when she was dying in Firebrand. I think it’s told more in full here. It’s a simple story about two bickering women, a witch and her bodyguard, who have been tied up in a boat, unable to use magic or force to get free. The lake is filled with souls that want to take their lives, while an evil wizard is about to sacrifice a child for his magic. The moral of the story is that they must work together to get the boat out of the current that will take them to the waterfall, and they do, in time to disrupt the wizard’s magic and save the boy. At the time, Estora didn’t know if her message was getting through to Kerrigan, but it did help pull her friend out of the tortured dreams she was having.

The bulk of this very short book is the titular Dream Gatherer. I was disheartened to see the return of the Berry sisters, whom I didn’t enjoy in Green Rider, and I don’t recall seeing in the book where the ship is released. The two sisters bicker, and while I didn’t enjoy them at the start, I did come to like them by the end of the book. I think part of my problem is that they are enigmas that are not properly explained, and don’t seem to fit into the world of the Green Riders. As Estora says, maybe they would have done better with their deceased father in current times, instead of getting kicked out of the university because he was studying magic in a time when magic was hated in Saccoridia. The story takes place at their restored house, as the house has grown itself around the ship that was released from its bottle.

A pirate still lives above decks, and the invisible maid keeps track of the missing items in their cupboard that the man has been stealing. They don’t like the ship, but manage to work their way around it, hilariously cutting holes in it so they can access other rooms, and so on. In one room, they find a magical device of their father’s, and decide to activate it so they can have a party to celebrate their return.

At the same time, Estora’s father is being returned home after the events that took place in Firebrand. Estora is wallowing in sorrow and guilt, as is certainly normal at this time. When she wanders off, she finds herself on the Berry sisters property. The sisters recognize the pain Estora is in, especially in regard to her guilt at Kerrigan’s torture, as Kerrigan was caught because Estora went racing into the forest on her own and was trapped in a Second Empire snare. Sensing that time works differently here, Estora takes time to relax, and the sisters insist that she unburden herself to them. The best part of the story, however, was the party, where the Dream Gatherer finds people Estora knows (among those the Berry sisters know) and brings their dreams to life on their property.

So Estora gets to be with Alton again, and her voice returns, unfortunately only while she’s on the property of the Seven Chimneys. She battles Kerrigan’s dark nightmare with a song, and frees a mermaid from the masthead of the ship. The magic of the dreams allows the mermaid to escape to her own place in the southern seas with the pirate Sickles, who consoled her when she was trapped as a wooden statue. She and Alton even make love for the rest of the night, while the spell lasts. I wonder how real Alton will think of the dream when he wakes. I was also wondering if the author was going to get Estora pregnant from this magical love affair. Only time will tell, I guess.

The part that struck me most among these dreamers, though, was how Estora managed to heal as it went on. The heavy demands of the world lie on her, but for a moment she could forget them. With the help of the Berry sisters, she will become the true Golden Guardian, assuming she finds her voice again. The sisters and Alton show her that while she could have made better choices, the death of her father and the torture of Kerrigan were not necessarily her fault. Her actions also allowed them to discover King Firebrand, which might not have happened otherwise. Settling the nightmare creature also allowed her to see that her singing did in fact help Kerrigan to recover, and could do so again. I wonder if the encounter with the mermaid will have an effect in some future story, perhaps when the king’s brother comes back from his sea adventures.

While the price of the book was more than what I would normally pay for a much longer book, I think it was a worthy interlude between stories. I almost reduced the rating because of the Berry sisters, but I think Estora’s strength overpowers it, and I did end up enjoying their banter, if only somewhat, in the end.


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