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.
I haven't read this book in years, so I really wasn't sure if I would adore it as much as I used to. This time around, I read it with a more critical eye, but it was still very enjoyable.
I always think of this book as simple, bright fantasy, but really it's pretty dark in places. There is a definite horror element to it, but not so much that I wouldn't be able to read it at night. There are some legitimately creepy things that happen on Karigan's ride to the castle. The depth of the writing is somewhat inconsistent, but not to the point of being distracting from the story.
For example, the relationships that Karigan forms seem to come out of nowhere with people she just met. She's somewhat snarky and stubborn, and she is very determined to get out of the castle, so I'm surprised that everyone seems to like her immediately. In that way, it is a light read. But I feel like the lightness, for lack of a better word, of the people aspect is balanced out with the heavy darkness of the plot. It's not fluffy to the point of ridiculous, but just enough to make it so you're not slogging through horror after horror.
Britain has said that she likes to give her readers a sense of closure, and you certainly get that with this book. It's not the end of the story at all, but nobody's hanging off the edge of a cliff by a toenail. All in all, I enjoyed this book just as much as I always have. Any book following The Broken Kingdoms had an uphill battle ahead, so I think it was a good choice to reread a book I loved so much.
To sum it up: A good book for anyone who likes interesting adventures, a very evil baddy, and a strong heroine
Overall Rating: 4 / 5
Buy or Try? Buy
More? 1 / 4 so far. Unsure of how many there will be total...it was initially to be a trilogy.
Plot: 4 / 5
Setting: 3 / 5
Characters: 3 / 5
Fantasy factor: High Fantasy