If your teens love fantasy, adventure, and a strong female protagonist, then they’re in for a “wild ride” with Kristen Britain’s Green Riderseries. (They’ll get the joke when they read the books . . . let’s just say there’s magic involved.)
The series, which consists of five books and one more to be released this time next year, is an epic fantasy adventure based in a medieval world called Sacoridia. When our story begins in Book One, it’s been nearly two hundred years since the Long War, a period of chaos and violence. We’re in a time of relative peace and prosperity when we meet Karigan G’ladheon. But that peace is certainly short-lived for poor Karigan.
When she’s suspended from her private school for winning a fistfight with a pompous peer, Karigan runs away. She plans to embark on the small adventure of a few days’ walk home and never expects to encounter real peril.
However, when a horse erupts from the trees on her second day of walking, bearing a half-dead rider, Karigan’s fate is decided. The rider, impaled with two black arrows in his back, pleads with the girl to take his horse and the message he bears: a message of life-or-death importance to King Zachary. This man, F’ryan Cobblebay, is a Green Rider and his life is devoted to bearing and delivering messages for the king.
That is, until he dies, with the horse and Karigan as the only witnesses.
Karigan’s only choice is to honor F’ryan’s mission and deliver his message, but she quickly realizes that the king and the Green Riders have strong enemies.
Kristen Britain released the first book in the Green Rider series in 2000, and the most recent book (titled “Mirror Sight“) was released in May of 2015. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve read the books through at least two and a half times since discovering them a few years ago.
I don’t often encounter a protagonist that I adore—but Karigan is the wonderful exception. She is strong, brave, awkward, humble, stubborn, and irrevocably special. Additionally, the world of Sacoridia is so detailed and complex that I am always thoroughly transported when I return to the books. It’s one of those series that you don’t just read for the story. You read it because it carries you off, like a dream.
The general good vs. evil conflict in the series is well-crafted and unique. Much of the conflict is caused by a crumbling wall that protects Sacoridia from Blackveil, a forest tainted with evil magic.
Though I love the series, I’ll admit a few flaws (begrudgingly). The latest book in the series was sub-par, though still a gripping read. I won’t spoil it for you, but it dealt with time travel and felt very much like a 500+ page filler full of fluff.
Parents should be warned that this is a book directed towards older teens, and there is some questionable material. There are a few sexual scenes, which are fairly detailed, in the later books in the series. Awkward and inappropriate? Yes. I’d suggest discussing this with your young readers beforehand, and decide whether or not to block out and skip these short sections (or skip the series altogether).
Since the story is an epic, there is a lot of violence. I won’t sugarcoat it, the story gets quite grisly and gruesome. Older teens should be okay with this level of violence, but if you’re uncomfortable with it then this series may have to wait.
Parents should also be aware of the religious situation in the books. Sacoridia is a polytheist society with a plethora of gods and goddesses with their own mythologies. Our protagonist and a few other characters are somewhat skeptical of this religion. Karigan (spoiler alert!) does interact with a god’s horse at one point, so Britain does seem to point to a reality in the pantheon, though it is very “seeing is believing.”
Mornhaven the Black, the major villain in the series, is from a faraway land called Arcosia. He is a monotheist and his “one god” seems to direct his evil intent. The fact that his religion is monotheistic could be taken as a veiled reference to Christianity, but I don’t believe that Britain is making any negative comments about Christians or their beliefs. These confusing religious aspects could be troubling to some parents, or they could be an interesting outlet for conversation!
So parents will need to exercise discernment about these aspects. On the whole, though, I am quick to recommend this series to anyone who loves an epic fantasy, an epic romance, and a fun, fast-paced read.
Image copyright DAW. Review copy from the reviewer’s personal collection.
Samantha Van Slyke is a student at Grove City College.