Green Rider has the feel of a freshman effort about it, but this debut reveals author Kristen Britain's promise. A novel with every indication that a sequel will follow, Green Rider tells the story of a proud, free-spirited merchant's daughter caught up coincidentally in a wild ride bearing a message for a king's eyes only, fleeing dark beings intent on keeping her from delivering that message.
Karigan G'ladheon, only child of an ambitious and hardworking merchant, has been kicked out of school for challenging (and, more importantly, for beating) a provincial governor's heir in the practice ring. She's just begun the long, reluctant walk home to Corsa when she is nearly trampled in a wood by a Green Rider -- King's messenger -- moments from death with two black-shafted arrows in his back. The dying Rider makes Karigan swear to deliver the message he carries to the hands of King Zachary even if it means her life. Taking the winged-horse brooch that is the mark of a king's messenger from the dead Rider's chest and pinning it to her own shirt, Karigan hears the sound of silver-shod hooves galloping for just a moment, and the murmur from invisible lips: Welcome, Rider.
Relieved at the postponement of explaining her expulsion to her father, Karigan quickly finds that nothing about the ride she swore to is frivolous. Accompanied by the ghost of the dead Rider and pursued by murderous traitors and the menacing, sorcerous "shadow man," Karigan finds aid in the magically hidden home of the spinster Berry sisters. The sisters' father studied the lost ways of magic, and they sense some of what he searched for in their young houseguest. They offer her a few nights' rest and a few special talismans as tokens of their newfound friendship, but Karigan must press on. As she travels, she meets a legendary Eltian who evinces some surprise at her ability to use the moonstone gifted her by the Berrys. An ancient Forester named Abram Rust tells her that she is using Rider magic, and that she is entering territory hostile to the king and his Green Riders. Confused by the reactions of those around her and determined to elude the mercenary dangers hot on her heels, Karigan unwittingly and unpurposefully becomes a central player in the struggle for the soul of an entire country.
The Eltians and Foresters are practically snagged from Tolkien's elves and Ents, and the theme of an adolescent coming into her magic in a world from which magic has long been dormant is a common one in fantasy. However, the individual characters in Green Rider are well-written and often endearing, if occasionally annoying. The plot becomes a bit muddled early on, but the interest Britain has built in the reader concerning her characters is enough to keep things moving. Kristen Britain shows promise, and with such huge fantasy names as Terry Goodkind and Lynn Flewelling in her corner, her future (and Karigan G'ladheon's) looks bright.