Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Kristen Britain
(2018, Daw books)

Green Rider, book 6

Karigan goes north in search of a hidden ally, supported by an Eletian, while the king is kidnapped by an elemental force of nature. On the journey, they encounter an advance army of Second Empire, intent on breaking the seal between the world of the living and the dead.


-- First reading (paperback)
February 22nd to March 31st, 2020


Thoroughly enjoyable, though long in parts. It was nice to return to the familiarity of these characters, who all have a lot of depth. I really liked the expansion of King Zachary and Captain Mapstone’s characters. I wasn’t sure, at first, about the plotline of the elemental, but it grew on me, and had two great resolutions, the first with Mapstone, the other at the end of the book. The action was a lot of fun, the torture gruesome, and the travel always had something interesting to note. As always, the descriptions echo the history of this world, adding life to the story without being dry. The day-to-day activity in the first part of the book was appreciated, but a bit lengthy, and Karigan’s recovery was long and a little too repetitive, the only two parts of the book that stretched on for me.

Spoiler review:

Compared to the previous book, this one was such a huge relief, sending us back into the magical world, which is so much less frustrating, and doesn’t have the strange love story. However, there are some very slow moments, which probably have realistic wait times, but which were a little more difficult to get through.

The first section, where Karigan is recovering, but wants to wallow in depression due to losing Cade in her travel back through time, was a very nice day-in-the-life segment, where we see the various duties of Karigan and other people, including Captain Mapstone, King Zachary, Queen Estora (very pregnant), and Karigan’s father. A new character is introduced here, a young woman who tends the fireplaces in the castle, an Ash girl who encounters Karigan in the Rider wing, is saved by her when the ice creatures attack, gets promoted to the Queen’s chamber, helps defeat the Aureas Slee -twice, and eventually gets promoted into a magicless Rider. It’s nice to see the change in attitudes among Mapstone, as they need more messengers than ever, and everyday people are willing to help.

Karigan’s aunts were hilarious in this section, both pestering her for information, going through her stuff, getting blasted by Karigan for doing so, which they’d never thought they’d hear in their lives, and finally getting rescued by the Riders from the ice creatures. It was a nice change of pace from the action-adventure of most other books in the series, and what follows in this book.

Additionally, Karigan is elevated to swordmaster, and made an honorary Weapon, for all she’s done in the King’s service. I agree with Karigan’s assessment of the ritual, and how angry she was. Dragging her out in the middle of the night under threat of death, no less, and attacking her in a situation where she could have been killed seems reckless. How many people haven’t passed the ritual -and did they die because of that failure?

The ice creatures have attacked because Grandmother, of Second Empire, has used her magic to summon the elemental in an effort to destabilize Saccoridia. She leaves thinking the magic has failed, but in reality, the Aureas slee appears, angry at her for forcing it to her will, and heads to the castle, where its ice creatures attack everyone. In the ensuing chaos, Immerez, a Second Empire spy who had been locked up for several books, escapes and makes his way back to Grandmother. Karigan and the Ash girl help to protect the Queen from the Aureas slee, which desires the company of the beautiful woman and her unborn twins. Eventually, it takes the place of Zachary, sending the King to its northern cave. The time with Estora and the false Zachary was very impressive, as everybody knows something has changed with the king but it’s not until Captain Mapstone, with her ability to detect surface thoughts, comes to visit that he is uncovered as a fraud. Then, it’s Ash who rescues the Queen. I really enjoyed the sections with Ash and how she acts, instead of thinking.

Estora, for her part, manages to rule the kingdom very well in Zachary's stead, arranging diplomatic ties with Rhovanny and even uncovering a spy in their midst. I wonder how much of the military strategy she left to the generals, and how involved she became. Before succumbing to bedrest, she elevates Captain Mapstone to Colonel.

In the cave of the Aureas slee, Zachary encounters two other hostages, an Eletian and a woman who was brought there as a child. It’s a long captivity, but probably realistic. He tries to escape, searching for a hole to the outside world, but the other woman keeps hounding him to be his family, having grown up completely alone. Eventually, a gryphon appears and wakes the stone gryphon in the cave, and the two fight the slee, breaking apart the cave. Zachary is taken with them and is dropped from a significant height, where he is found by groundmites and given over to Grandmother. Fortunately, he’s lost so much weight, and has an overgrown beard, that he is almost unrecognizable. He’s put to work clearing rocks from an underground cavern of an old Saccoridian Keep.

The journey north with Karigan, Estral and Enver the Eletian, on a mission to find the mysterious p’hedrose, is almost pure character work, and delves into the relationship between the two women, who are still best friends, as well as the growing obsession Enver starts to have toward Karigan, which won’t peak until the last chapters. In essence, he starts taking care of her when she is emotionally injured, watching over her mirror eye, her lungs as she inhales the magic smoke, her torn-up back after she is tortured, teaches her to dismiss the ghosts (and put them to rest), and generally comes closer to her than anybody.

For Estral goes off in search of her father alone, unwilling to wait for Karigan’s lungs to clear, and immediately gets captured. Karigan needs to go after her, and also gets captured. It’s here that she sees Zachary and Estora’s father Lord Fiori, and she’s tortured by Nyssa until essentially all of the skin on her back is whipped off, and more. The torture was obviously intended to shock, and it was very uncomfortable to read. It didn’t last long, but was enough to prove the point, and to put Karigan out of commission. Zachary goes crazy seeing Karigan captured, and he is revealed as the King of Saccoridia, and is as such sent for torture himself, as well as a residual spell from Grandmother’s rope knots. Both Karigan and Zachary are rescued, in order, but it takes a long time for them to recover, especially Karigan, who was defeated not just physically, but mentally, also.

The ghost of Nyssa invades her mind, pulling her farther toward depression, and slowing the healing of her body. This was the longest part of the book, maybe not in pages, but definitely it was slowest. Eventually, through the use of her horse, Zachary, the ghost of the Rider who first wore her brooch, and the medicine of both Enver and the master healer who betrayed Zachary a couple of books ago and was exiled to the north, Karigan recovers enough to start walking around the camp.

The climax of the book has to do with ancient magic that Grandmother discovered in the Keep in the Lone Forest, long abandoned by the Saccoridians, and from the war of the gods against whatever creatures were there before them. She uses her magic to release the seal to the underworld, hoping to control it. The creatures that are released are supposed to be the fiercest ever seen in the land, but they are barely better fighters than Zachary’s river unit. They have many advantages, like the ability to move as shadow and poison claws, but other than that, they are just normal evil creatures. I guess with some nourishment, they could become worse. The underworld god Westrion takes the still-injured Karigan as his avatar to replace the seal to the chamber, but I don’t really understand why. She pointed her sword at the seal to strengthen its magic, but why did he need her to do this? Is his horse-form not good enough to focus the magic?

It's the Aureas Slee that kills grandmother, but the slee is killed by the Elitian who was trapped in its cave for a thousand years. She takes its heart and becomes the elemental of ice instead, to maintain the balance.

I enjoyed the appearance of the gryffons quite a lot. From the first appearance at the wall in the form of a cat, to the help it gave Karigan on her journey, to the rescue of Zachary from the slee and finally to being a primary participant in Karigan’s rescue from Nyssa, they were always described in a fun way. They were playful, like kittens, especially with the evil people or creatures they encountered.

A number of smaller plot points from previous novels were continued here, including the loss of Estral’s voice. In this book, however, she’s given a gift from the Elitians, a new temporary voice. This is of course so that she can participate in Karigan’s journey, but it also gives her a chance to communicate and learn how precious her real voice is. Lala was sent to the coast to learn magic before Zachary’s forces attacked the Lone Forest, so even if grandmother died, Lala still has Estral’s voice out in the world.

The final plot point is to bring the p’hedrose into the fight against Mornhaven the Black, and Karigan and Enver do this, Enver having scouted the lands when Karigan was recovering from her several injuries, behind the scenes. With her fading ability, they enter into the hidden valley, and are nearly killed for it. But Karigan’s mirror eye shows them a vision of the possible future, which shows them they can’t escape what could come, with their leader stuffed in a museum.

Even with all the adventure and action, war and torture, this is a love story. Karigan and Zachary have loved each other since the very beginning, but due to his status as King, not to mention his marriage to Estora, they cannot pursue it. However, in this book, they become very close, though they must separate again at the end. Zachary watches over Karigan, she watches over him when he’s poisoned from the claws of the underworld monsters, and when she’s released from the avatar of Westrion, they kiss like they were in private. With the shakeup of the Green Riders, giving Karigan the position of Chief Rider, which means she’ll spend more time at the castle, this could lead to big problems -and interesting stories. We’ll see.

These books are real character dramas, and the characters are very well developed. Details from the previous books feature in future installments, so it’s nice to see the way the world builds upon itself, too. Although the book is long, it is never tedious. It’s familiar, and enjoyable all throughout.


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