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First Rider's Call

by Kristen Britain

(US edition: DAW Books, Canada $37.50 / US $24.95, 639 pages, hardback, published 2003; ISBN: 0-7564-0209-3. UK: Earthlight, 10.99, 639 pages, trade paperback, published 1 September 2003; Pocket Books, £6.99, 639 pages, paperback, this edition published 7 March 2005.)

Kristen Britain's second book takes up where the cover scanfirst, Green Rider, left off. Karigan G'ladheon, having discharged the duty taken up with a dead man's magical brooch, has now returned to her life as sub-chief of Clan G'ladheon. She likes being a merchant. She's happy as a merchant. But the ghost of Lil Ambriodhe, the first of the Green Riders, won't let it rest at that.

Old problems are coming to a head in Sacoridia. The D'Yer Wall which protects them from evil magic is crumbling. The Green Riders dwindle in number, too few recruits hearing the call to replace those lost in the line of duty. The ancient enemy, Mornhavon, has begun to stir again. So Karigan gives up the life she loves to heed the Call and become a Green Rider in truth.

This book does a beautiful job of telling an old story in a new way -- the epic battle between Good and Evil -- which is what high fantasy is all about. What makes it special is how Britain manages to put a unique face on everything. The characters are delightfully plausible and well-developed, getting into each other's hair and hearts with about as much grace as anyone you know. The Eletians are cool and enigmatic, not quite the usual sort of elf but serving a similar purpose. The enchanted brooches of the Green Riders, and other magical artifacts, are sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic; and each Rider has a particular talent that ties into their own brooch, like Karigan's odd ability to fade out of sight. Journal entries by Mornhavon's right-hand man, Hadriax el Fex, make a haunting counterpoint to the narrative -- which weaves past and present together in a dangerous dance. Britain creates a world half-familiar, half-mysterious, and wholly compelling.

First Rider's Call will delight fantasy mavens of all kinds. The slightly fey horses of the Green Riders give the story strong appeal for equestrian folks as well. It will make more sense if you've read Green Rider first, but this one still stands pretty well on its own. Most highly recommended.


Review by Elizabeth Barrette.


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