Green Rider Series Guest Review: Blackveil

Blackveil cover artKristen Britain’s fourth Green Rider novel, Blackveil, came out February 1. Having now read through it I am extremely happy to have gotten a new novel. Before I get started though, a blurb:

Viewings at a masquerade ball celebration before the King’s wedding give us glimpses of events that may have a huge impact on Sacoridia. Karigan gets sent to Blackveil on a joint Eletian and Sacoridian expedition. Alton meets Karigan’s best friend and minstrel, Estral, and they start making progress on fixing the D’Yer wall. Meanwhile, the Second Empire’s leaders continue to do their utmost to bring about the downfall of Sacoridia.

The High King’s Tomb also introduced Lord Amberhill to us, and he plays an interesting, almost bit part in this novel. I have a feeling he’s going to turn out a big part of this story in the end, but I don’t currently know just how big. He also makes some rather unfortunate decisions in his stint throughout these couple novels.

I also feel I’ve got a bit of a handle on Karigan. She’s bad at relationships. Just about any of them. I can think of only two times when her bad assumptions are not her fault. And she’s decidedly selfish when it comes to some of these things. I know she’s a stubborn girl, but seriously, when you already know you’re lonely, why in the world would you push away your closest friends? That loneliness is part of why I think she makes those bad decisions, but I guess if she made all the right ones all the time, she’d be a less interesting character. I do wish she’d make better decisions at least on occasion! At least she and Stevic made up at the beginning of this one! 😀 Also, Stevic was finally back in the book! 😉

Another thing I’ve noticed is that Karigan herself seems to be the deus ex machina of these books. I think most of the things she’s done as such have been explained (which I suppose makes her not much of an actual deus ex machina), but I wish we could see more of her out of the box thinking and skills saving the day instead of who she is being the Big Thing.

And the ending. I don’t know if it’s come across in my collection of posts, but endings really help make a book for me. They’re extremely important in making a book feel like a finished product, in particular when the author only comes out with a book once every 4 years or so. (Seriously, 1998, 2003, 2007, and now 2011.) This is the first time I’ve been disappointed. Matter of fact, I very much liked the way the other books ended. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an ending, and even a good one for some of the characters (with high hopes and potential drama insinuated for the next book in those endings), but the very end of Blackveil, with the likelihood of it being another 4 years till the next book definitely leaves something to be desired.

All that being said, I really enjoyed this book! So many things happen (Estora gets to be a badass), and it seems that the world might start being a somewhat less dark place than it seemed in the last couple, though I’m sure there are still many dire straights left in store for our favorite Sacoridians, and I can’t wait until I get to read of their continued exploits! (Please, please let it be less than 4 years.)

Another Guest Review: Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson

A Note From Kiara: This cross-posted guest review comes from another dear friend of mine. Paige is SUCH a great friend that she was the best “man” at my wedding. She’s only recently started her own review blog but she has very good instincts, so please click over and give her other reviews a visit.

Published in August of 2010, book #1 of the Death Works Series is Death Most Definite, Australian author Trent Jamieson’s debut novel. Set in the city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, the story focuses on Psychopomp Steven de Selby, whose job it is to facilitate the journey of the souls of the newly dead to the afterlife. Yet the newly dead girl he just met doesn’t want him to do so. Instead of needing him to ease her journey to the Underworld, she’s trying to save his life.

The back cover blurb:

Steven de Selby has a hangover. Bright lights, loud noise, and lots of exercise are the last thing he wants. But that’s exactly what he gets when someone starts shooting at him.

Steven is no stranger to death-Mr. D’s his boss after all-but when a dead girl saves him from sharing her fate, he finds himself on the wrong end of the barrel. His job is to guide the restless dead to the underworld but now his clients are his own colleagues, friends, and family.


Mr. D’s gone missing and with no one in charge, the dead start to rise, the living are hunted, and the whole city teeters on the brink of a regional apocalypse-unless Steven can shake his hangover, not fall for the dead girl, and find out what happened to his boss- that is, Death himself.

It’s a certainty that our main character, Pomp Steve de Selby, wouldn’t have lived through the first chapter had it not been for newly deceased Lissa Jones. A fact which makes him tend to rather like her quite a lot. Maybe a little too much. Even though she’s dead.

After the attempt on his life, things just go from bad to worse to horrific for Steve and he’s literally running for his life while those around him are all dragged down. So here he is, attempting to deal with the dreadful weight of loss and betrayal that’s been heaped upon him out of nowhere, while realizing that he’s the only one left who might be able to prevent a regional apocalypse.

The dead need to be pomped and as time passes and his Pomp colleagues dwindle, Steven is the only one who can ease their passing to the Underworld. And dammit, it’s getting hard! To make matters worse, Stirrers are beginning to inhabit the bodies whose souls are seeking passage. They’re everywhere and they’re after Steven. Now, Stirrers aren’t your run-of-the-mill, Romero-esque, living flesh-eating zombies. Oh, no… they’re much worse. Here’s how the book describes an outbreak of Stirrers:

Bodies will disappear from morgues, people will see their deceased loved ones walking in the street, or wake up with them in their bed. And there will be no joy in the occasion, because they are not loved ones, just something that possesses their memories: an imperfect and deadly mimic.

Stirrers are voids. They will turn a house cold and they will swallow laughter. They are the worst aspects of time only sped up and grown cruelly cunning. Bad luck follows them.

The scariest thing about them is that instead of mindless sacks of flesh and bone shambling aimlessly about and trying to eat people, Stirrers are actual beings from the depths of the Underworld that inhabit dead bodies and move them about. They do very unzombie-like things like talking and driving cars and shooting at people and such. People like poor Steven de Selby. As a Psychopomp, he can “stall” these Stirrers, or banish them from the bodies they inhabit. He only needs to shed some blood, his blood, and touch them to do so. But it’s difficult, it’s painful, and they’re just… everywhere.

Steven is racing against the clock, trying to avoid being wiped out, trying to avoid the Stirrers, trying to discover his betrayer and the reason for the Pomp massacre, trying to stop the apocalypse… and trying to find his boss because as creepy as he is, Steven could really use his advice and assistance. Where in hell is Death, anyway? With help from the dead girl he’s falling for, despite knowing better, and a couple of Black Sheeps who didn’t want to join in the family business but happen to be relatives of newly murdered Pomps, he’s going to try to find out. Even if it means going to hell and back.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, the humor in the writing and the way Steven wore his heart on his sleeve. His bewilderment and pain in the face of the fiasco his life and his world became, literally in the blink of an eye, were believable and it was easy to sympathize with his plight. The story was fast-paced and the plot was like nothing I’ve read before. It held my interest so completely that I read it in three parts, kicking out the entire last half of the 320 page paperback in one sitting. I most definitely look forward to the next installment of the series, the recently released Managing Death.

Fave quotes:

‘It’s the first new law of the universe according to Steven de Selby’s life: things always get worse-and then they explode.’

‘Why were the seventies all about vomit colors?’

‘This would all be so very Mad Max if I was driving a V8, and if it wasn’t me.’

‘Shit, give dead people firearms and soon enough it’s all they know. Shoot this, blast that.’

“I never bothered with a computer for the real work. Who needs one, eh? Though I do like my Twitter.” ~Death

Green Rider Series Re-Read: Guest Review of The High King’s Tomb

The High King's Tomb cover art

I have to admit The High King’s Tomb, book 3 of Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, is not my favorite of the three I’ve read so far. For example, again with only the mentions with Stevic G’ladheon. Also, Karigan actually gets a bit whiny in the first half of this book, where as I specifically mentioned she doesn’t get there for me in the other books. However, as usual she’s too busy to be whiny in most of the second half! 😉

The blurb:

Karigan and a Green Rider trainee are sent on what seem to be mundane errands for the king of Sacoridia and Captain Mapstone, and which end up being anything but. Attempts to mend the breach in the D’Yer Wall continue. And the Second Empire continues its no longer secret attempts to overthrow Sacoridia for their ancient leader, Mornhavon the Black. Britain keeps the excitement high from beginning to end, balancing epic magical craziness with the humor and camaraderie of Karigan and her fellow riders.

This novel starts out much more sedately than the first two books, which is actually something I quite like. I like to read about “normal” in these long series. The first couple books were separated by two years, but it wasn’t something that the reader actually gets to experience.

I think I’ve figured out why this novel isn’t sitting the same with me as the first two. The villainess introduced in this book has a mission. She also has a side mission. A huge, horrible side mission that potentially affects the universe, but still only feels like a side project and unimportant to the story. Maybe as the series goes along this side mission will be shown to have had more impact on the story than I could see.

And just a couple of random comments to add: I’ve read reviews that mention how Britain likes to use all the fantasy tropes you can think of, and I can’t disagree with that. However, a lot of them seemed pretty fresh uses to me. There are also definite parallels with Tolkien’s work, beyond the very black and white nature of the characters, but that’s almost hard to not do these days. I would definitely have to agree that Green Rider’s parallels are stronger than those I’ve read in other novels lately. On the other hand, it’s a bit like coming home in that sense.

And apparently my blog has been found at least once by people searching to see if you can read the Green Rider novels out of order. In this case, it’s something I’d definitely not recommend. I may be biased however. Even with series that aren’t necessarily connected (Terry Brooks, Brian Jacques, L.E. Modesitt, Jr.) I like to read them in order. On the other hand, thinking about it, the stories are fairly self contained. I just can’t say personally whether they work out of order, since I’ve never read them that way. One would definitely be missing out on detailed background info as a person might assume.

And now for the most recent installment, which you can still comment to win over at Waiting for Fairies, Blackveil!

Guest Review – First Rider’s Call

A note from Kiara: Thus continue our guest reviews of the Green Rider series. Don’t forget to enter our Blackveil Giveaway!
First Rider's Call cover art

The blurb:

Karigan, who took on the mantle of king’s messenger after chancing upon a dying Green Rider, has returned to her everyday life. She has put the thrills and perils of being caught up in great events apparently behind her. But few may evade their destiny, and Karigan is soon to face even greater dangers… Blackveil Forest is stirring, its tainted powers seeping through the breach in the D’Yer wall. While havoc sweeps the countryside, a Green Rider and scion of the stoneworkers who created the wall, attempts to mend the breach. Summoned to duty by the call of the First Rider, Karigan must help the Riders, and face the truth about her own savage heritage. Sought by undead warriors and caught in the machinations of the mysterious Eletians, Karigan must confront an ancient enemy in the rotten heart of Blackveil.

First Rider’s Call, the second book in Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, can be summed up with one word. Betrayal. I’m not the most sopisticated reader ever. I tend to read only for enjoyment, but this one I actually caught the thread in. I’m not even sure I can count the number of different betrayals (or seeming betrayals) that occurred in this story; I certainly can’t do it on only one hand.

For the record, I should mention that in no way did I, as the reader, feel betrayed. Quite the opposite actually, this novel provides so much quality, character insights, and exciting happenings that I can’t even describe how happy it makes me. Or how sad I was when I finished (sort of, the ending was fantastic, which is fortunate for those unfortunate souls who had to wait years for the next book)! Fortunately for me, I had the next one on hand to start reading once I finished this one! 😉

The funny thing about betrayal is that it can often lead to hope and happiness and lots of other great things. Sounds weird, I know, but if you read this novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

And that Karigan. She’s impulsive surely, but as Captain Mapstone once thinks, leaders of the Green Riders need to have flexibility in their thinking. And Karigan’s got that in spades. She thinks out of the box and takes advantage of crazy things without thinking twice. This is the second time I read this book and I was completely surprised by her solution for the second time. Totally didn’t see it coming. (Of course, it doesn’t help that I hadn’t remembered how it finished since it’s been so long since that first read through!)

My only disappointment is that Karigan’s dad didn’t play a direct role in this novel. He’s mentioned, but that’s not the same at all. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get over it. 😉

So there’s that! On to The High King’s Tomb!

Kiaras Festivus Green Rider Guest Review & Blackveil GIVEAWAY

A Note From Kiara: This review & giveaway is written and sponsored by one of my dear friends who posts as Spragujs and has been cross-posted with the author’s permission from The Double Phoenix blog. Please stay tuned for the giveaway at the end of this post!

To celebrate Festivus Kiaras, Kiara has asked for some guest reviews.  In honor of my friend’s birthday month and the release of one of my favorite author’s newest books, I’m doing a reread review of the associated series as well as a give away of the newest book.  It will be a hardcover copy that I’ll have read before sending it out, so it’ll be slightly used and you won’t get it in time for the release, but maybe if you haven’t read any of the series yet, this give away will entice you to go out and give the others a shot.  🙂  And with no further adieu…

I recently finished rereading Green Rider, the first book in Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, in preparation for the fourth book, Blackveil, which is coming out today. The blurb:

Karigan G’ladahon has fled from school following a fight which would surely lead to her expulsion. As she makes her way through the deep forest, a galloping horse pounds up to her, its rider impaled by two black-shafted arrows. With his dying breath, he tells her he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary magical messengers of the King, and makes Karigan swear to deliver the message he’s carrying, giving her his green coat, with its symbolic brooch of office. This promise given to a dying man changes Karigan’s life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, she unwittingly finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wish more of my friends had read these books.  I remembered the stories very vaguely as feeling very otherworldly, which was pretty funny to me after reading an article about the upcoming release party for Blackveil, that ”while the stories are fantasies, the characters and settings are not fantastical or otherworldly.  There is an appealing familiarity about them, and they are so convincingly drawn that they could be real.”  I agree, but at the same time still stand by my statement.  The world is extremely vivid and easily imagined.  I think it’s the layer of magic that blankets everything combined with the very easily imagined setting that gives me the otherworldly feeling.  It should feel extremely familiar, but the magic also makes it very different.

Green Rider introduces the reader to the world of Sacoridia and its surrounds, to the characters of the story, and to the idea that there’s a very big story arc coming up in this series.  The characters are great, and even if they do tend to fall to the black and white, they’re still individuals with their own strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.  I’m always impressed that Britain has made me feel for even the briefly mentioned characters when things (often bad) end up happening to them.  Very brief descriptions bring them fully to life.  I will say that her attempts at romance in this novel were a little less than fully developed, but that’s really the only complaint I can think of at this point.  With more novels out, there’s plenty of time for them to become more believable.

I also think that Karigan may be one of the few protagonists I’ve run into that I can remember that wasn’t whiny.  Yes, she starts out pretty spoiled and of course she complains about a few things and makes wishes about others, but not to the point where I’d describe it as whiny.  Just in case that’s a pet peeve for any interested readers out there!  ;)

Check The Double Phoenix soon for a review of book 2, First Rider’s Call!

Another note from Kiara: If you’d like to enter the giveaway for a copy of Blackveil, please leave a comment on this post. Giveaway is open to International readers and will close February 28th at midnight EST. One entry per commenter, regardless of the number of comments left. Winner will be drawn at random.

Guest Post: Review – Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire

by: Kristin Cashore

Genre: Fantasy

November 2009

Dial Books

ISBN: 978-0803734616

461 pages

Last year at DragonCon, I sat in on a panel run by the Young Adult Literature track that focused on strong female protagonists in YA lit, and  I came out of it with a list of authors and novels to check out. Among them was Kristin Cashore’s debut novel, Graceling. Months later, when I finally remembered that list of recommended reads and gave Graceling a chance, I kicked myself for not reading it immediately. I fell in love with the world Cashore created, with the strength and vulnerability of her protagonist, and with her writing in general. I was delighted when I learned that Cashore had written a companion story titled Fire. Fire shares with Graceling the larger world, though it is set in a kingdom that is separate from those featured in the previous novel. Fire also shares one character–who I won’t spoil–with the other novel. Set before the events of Graceling, Fire stands alone as its own story, so you can read either book first.

In The Dells, it is dangerous for anyone to travel the roads without an armed escort of at least six, rebels are building armies against the king, and monsters–terribly beautiful creatures that can capture a human’s mind–roam the wilds. It is in this place that Fire, the protagonist, lives. She is the last of her kind, a human monster. Being a monster means that her mere presence can overwhelm a weak human mind, and she can, with concentration, control the minds of those around her. She is loved, feared, and hated because of what she is. The populace of The Dells know well the damage she is capable of: her father had been the monster advisor of the late King, and the two men had driven the kingdom into the ground, both men known for their excesses and her father especially known for his cruelty. When we meet Fire she is living in the shadow of her father’s brutal and frightening legacy, maintaining a quiet life in the remote holding where she has grown up.

Fire is desperate not to become her father. She keeps herself covered to avoid influencing others with her appearance, lives in relative isolation, and uses her ability to affect and control the minds of others sparingly. Fire’s desire to stay out of the politics of the realm, to remain out of the public eye, is pushed aside when King Nash sends his brother, Lord Brigan, to bring her to the royal family. They want her to use her ability to help them uncover plots against the king. Fire must make a choice. Does she embrace the power she inherited from her father, who had so horribly abused it?

It is for Fire as it is for many of us: only in leaving the comfort of home, in taking a risk in moving forward, and stretching her ability as she never has before, can she grow into herself. As she spends time with the royal family, four siblings who also live in the shadow of their father’s dark legacy, that she begins to understand that she is not required to follow in the footsteps of her father. She sees them struggle to keep the kingdom in one piece, to work past the damage their father the king and her father the monster advisor inflicted. “Not all daughters were like their fathers,” she realizes. “A daughter monster chose the monster she would be.” It is a turning point for Fire and, of course, for those around her.

Reading Fire is reading the best kind of coming-of-age story. The world is richly described, the characters are accessible, and Fire is a complex and mutli-faceted protagonist who at turns made me cheer and made me cry, and I quite literally chewed my nails in anxiety at points in Fire’s journey. It’s a beautiful tale, one I’m glad to have read. Now go read it.