First Rider’s Call
For its length, First Rider’s Call is a pretty fast read. All the characters are well-drawn, and I grew to be very interested in their experiences. Regardless of the many fantasy clichés peppered throughout the book, this is a pleasant read that kept me turning the pages.
At the beginning of the story, Kerrigan G’ladheon is forced to once again answer the call of the Green Rider, still against her wishes. Now somewhat resigned to her fate, she returns back to find that Sacoridia is on the brink of great danger. The Blackveil Forest, long the resting place of the evil Lord Mornhavon, is pulsing with anticipation. The D’Yer wall separating Sacoridia from Blackveil has a big crack in it, and twisted power is trickling through. Something called the sentience is resuming its evil plans. A renegade group called the Second Empire is determined to bring Lord Mornhavon back into power. Bizarre events begin to happen across the land: entire towns disappear, animals and people turn to stone, and weather patterns change erratically.
Meanwhile, Karigan’s ability – and the ability of the other Riders – is going haywire. She’s uncontrollably traveling through time and having visions she cannot understand. The Riders keep finding her in the throes of trances, several times almost dying because of their physical effects. Some evil spirits keep whispering to her and calling her “betrayer.” Random Eletians (basically elves) keep alternately shooting at her and giving her strange messages. And, to top it off, the ghost of Lil Ambriodhe, the First Rider, keeps visiting her. The brooch Karigan now wears was originally Lil’s, and it may be this unearthly bond between them that will eventually save Sacoridia.
I’m not a fantasy expert, but even I can see that fantasy clichés are relatively plentiful in this story. As I haven’t read much fantasy recently, this didn’t bother me very much. My difficulty with the story is the remarkably little action that actually takes place. There is quite a bit of heavy foreboding from both the Second Empire and the sentience, but this somehow peters out around the middle. Many creepy events occur, but the tension dies down between each episode until it seems like these signals have little meaning besides a superficial scare or two. True, this is not the last book of the series, but I also was dissatisfied with the way the villain was temporarily defeated. I kept waiting for a resurgence, but it seemed to have been saved for the next book. I also did not like the speed with which characters were killed, maimed or simply disappeared. Rather well-developed characters were dropping like flies, and after a while I felt that the author was just doing it to torment the reader.
The strong point of this book is its characterization, which made me forget the lack of action for a while. All the characters, from the main to the secondary, are vividly described. I liked Karigan very much, despite the fact that she’s pretty standard. She has a ferocious, steadfast heart and feels the pain of her fellow Riders very deeply. She has a very vague love-thing going on with King Zachary – I hesitate to call it romance because it only consists of fleeting looks and slightly-warmer-than-usual smiles. While I felt it was a little forced, it was a welcome diversion to the dire portents that lingered throughout the story.
I may not be quite addicted to this world, but I know I’ll read the next book to see what happens. The daily life of the Sacoridians is more interesting than the conflict, which is a little problematic. I can’t see a happy ending for Karigan and her king, but I’m interested to see how Karigan’s life will turn out nonetheless. If anyone deserves some happiness and stability, it’s her. The events in First Rider’s Call would fry anyone’s nerves.