While traveling is not my thing, I can still find some benefit in it–mainly, new book recommendations coming from independent bookstores in different places. During my last trip, I found a handful of new books to add to the list, and, since I felt it was unfair to put two classics on The Literary Horizon, we’re going to look at fantasies with female protagonists that kick off series from the late nineties and the aughts. Mmm, can you smell the nostalgia?
Green Rider by Kristen Britain
On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G’ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount’s neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a “life and death” message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission “for love of country.” As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, “Beware the shadow man…”
Karigan’s promise changes her life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, and accompanied by the silent specter of the original messenger, she herself becomes a legendary Green Rider. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.
Green Rider‘s sequel, First Rider’s Call, caught my eye in a bookstore in Maine–I’m a sucker for a pretty cover, and it involved ghosts, a legacy, and one girl with it all on her shoulders. I found the concept of the Green Riders quite interesting, and, of course, I can never make myself jump into a series, especially a fantasy series, unless it’s written by Terry Prachett. While I do prefer to see more unique settings than the standard fantasy setting (kiss your productivity goodbye with that link, folks!), sometimes it’s just nice to fall into something so familiar.
John at Grasping for the Wind ultimately enjoyed it, but points out that’s a little incoherent, as if Britain pulled everything together late in the writing process and forgot to rewrite the beginning to match it. SQT from Fantasy & SciFi Lovin’ News & Reviews loved it, especially praising how accessible the naming of characters was. While I don’t think G’ladheon is exactly an accessible name, it sounds like it’s worth a shot, especially if, as John points out, the sequel is better.
Green Rider was published on November 1, 1998.
The Naming by Alison Croggon
In the classic spirit of epic fantasy comes this glittering saga of a young girl who learns she possesses an uncanny gift—and is destined to use it to save her world from a terrifying evil.
Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She doesn’t yet know she has inherited a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the noble School of Pellinor and enables her to see the world as no other can. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true identity and extraordinary destiny unfold. Now, she and her mysterious teacher must embark on a treacherous, uncertain journey through a time and place where the forces of darkness wield an otherworldly terror.
The first book in a projected quartet, Alison Croggon’s epic about Maerad and her remarkable yet dangerous gift is a beautiful, unforgettable tale. Presented as a new translation of an ancient text, The Naming evokes the rich and complex landscape of Annar, a legendary world just waiting to be discovered.
I could have sworn I’ve seen this somewhere before, either recommended to me or seen in my middle school library during eighth grade. It sounded epic enough to thoroughly enchant me as a wee lass, but it always slipped through the cracks. When I saw the cover in a Borders in Boston, I recognized it immediately and added to the list. It’s not getting away this time.
Anastasia from Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog informs us that Maerad is a prickly heroine with trust issues, which makes me swoon immediately, and that she enjoyed it immensely. Kiirstin at a book a week adored it, especially how the oral poetry actually works, although she does admit it can be a little uneven. I have such a thing for prickly heroines (Elphaba Thropp, anyone?) that I know I need to read this soon.
The Naming (The Gift in the UK) was published on May 10, 2005.