Magic, danger, and adventure abound for messenger Karigan G'ladheon in author Kristen Britain's New York Times-bestselling Green Rider fantasy series • "First-rate fantasy." —Library Journal
On her long journey home from school after a fight that will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G'ladheon ponders her uncertain future. As she trudges through the immense Green Cloak forest, her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves, as a galloping horse bursts from the woods.
The rider is slumped over his mount's neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king of Sacoridia.
Before he dies, he begs Karigan to deliver the “life and death” message he bears to King Zachary. When she reluctantly he agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission, whispering with his dying breath, "Beware the shadow man...".
Taking on the golden-winged horse brooch that is the symbol of the Green Riders, Karigan is swept into a world of deadly danger and complex magic, her life forever changed. Compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is accompanied by the silent specter of the fallen messenger and hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.
Britain's first novel is a classic quest tale set in a standardized medieval fantasy world. It begins when protagonist Karigan G'ladheon is expelled from an exclusive school. In a forest on the way home, she encounters one of the magically bound Green Riders, who carries a vital message for King Zachary. The messenger is dying with assassins' arrows in his back, so with more loyalty than caution, Karigan takes over his magic brooch. This also means taking over his mission and becoming a Green Rider herself, an act that flings Karigan into a cesspool of intrigues both magical and mundane, some of them well-handled by the author, some not. Karigan is an engaging protagonist, although the feisty female is now a penny a cartload in high fantasy, and some of the scenes of magic and/or combat rise to a high standard. Britain also makes notable use of class distinctions as motivators, a tact not often seen in fantasy. But, overall, her plot lacks originality; most of her characters (other than Karigan) are, at best, archetypes; and her pacing may be sufficiently uneven to deter readers from coping with the book's standard plot and considerable length. This is a respectable, not outstanding, debut, although Britain shows enough talent to warrant a follow-up. FYI: In its 25 years, DAW has published only one previous first novel in hardcover: Tad Williams's Tailchaser's Song.