When a fantasy author wants to step out of the boundaries of the stereotypical, they have a hard path ahead of them. Fantasy readers want something very specific with their reading, usually, and if you try to mess with that formula, then you’re in for some heat. This will sometimes lead to authors purposefully or unsuspectingly mimicking the work that has come before them, and other times it will send them off into the unnatural.
Kristen Britian managed to avoid doing either of these things, for the most part, with her second book, ‘First Rider’s Call’, and I was genuinely pleased with the outcome.
The story continues two years down the path from where ‘Green Rider’ left off, and once again sparked something in my mind that I loved. Britain doesn’t fill in every gap, walk you through every minute of every day. Time passes, trivial information is, for the most part, left out. Throughout the entire book – not just the opening “one year later” which left the blurb on the back of the back to fill some of the blanks – Britain uses the passage of time to carry the story on without letting it stall.
Britain has a really good grasp on her characters as well, both their personalities and styles, but also in how she keeps a loose hold on them. Characters you feel could be interesting are suddenly killed off. There are very few miraculous escapes just because they’re the central theme of the book.
One fault that Britain may have fallen into – though I’m not sure if I hold with this – is mimicking authors who have come before her, specifically, the brilliant JRR Tolkien. If you look, there are some similarities between The Lord of the Rings and Britain’s books, but only in the same way that there are similarities between Norse mythology and The Lord of the Rings.
Only once did I feel that Britain had directly mimicked a scene that she particularly loved from The Lord of the Rings, and even then I have no concept of whether Tolkien was the originator of such an idea, or whether it is a scene which has been played out time and time again in other fiction, before and after. Either way, I did not begrudge Britain this scene, as I thought it was done well and was necessary to the telling of the story.
Britain still has moments of juvenility in her writing when it appears that a thirteen year old demon wrests control of the keyboard for a phrase or word at a time, however I get the feeling that it has diminished somewhat, in this her second book.
The central half of the book had me feeling very much like I did with James Clemens’ ‘Hinterland’, with a continuing intensity for such a large amount of the book leaving me weary, and having to continually put the book down every time the perspective changed so that I could get my breath back, and deal with not being able to continue that particular storyline.
But no storyline or POV was there just for the sake of it. Everything carried weight, even if you were too impatient to notice it.
Britain has continued writing a series that is at once magical and realistic, simple and intelligent, and at once stereotypically fantasy while still managing to incorporate a very science-fiction style trope that, as with much Britain does, isn’t there just for the sake of it or because she thought it was cool, but because it has a noticeable and important impact on the story being told. I was deeply impressed with the duality of the story being told, the manner in which history was conveyed, and the way in which we got to see it happen. Not for one moment did I think Britain was playing with me, the reader, an asking too much of me to follow what she was writing. That, I think, is a great skill.
Review by Joshua S Hill
8.4/10 from 1 reviews
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