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Literature / Green Rider

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Green Rider is both a series of Epic Fantasy novels by Kristen Britain and the name of the first novel in the series. They follow the adventures of Karigan G'ladheon, one of the titular Green Riders. The Green Riders are a messenger service in the Kingdom of Sacoridia who are magically called to service by the winged horse brooches, which amplify and enable their special magical talents.

In Green Rider (1998), Karigan discovers a young man dying from a pair of ominous black arrows. He is a Green Rider, and begs her to carry his "life or death" message to the king. With his dying breath, he bids her to 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 must rise above being a simple schoolgirl and become one of the Green Riders of legend. 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.

In First Rider's Call (2003), Karigan has gone back home to work in her father's trading business, but finds that resisting the call of the messenger service is far harder than she thought it would be. Returning to Sacor City, she finds the messenger service much diminished. Many riders die on their dangerous missions, but no new riders are answering to take their places. Rider magic is becoming unpredictable or failing entirely. Wild magic is scouring the land, and an ancient evil is stirring in the Blackveil Forest.

In The High King's Tomb (2007), the country of Sacoridia struggles to reclaim magical documents and knowledge lost since the long war to prepare for the confrontation with Mornhavon the Black. Meanwhile, the Second Empire, descendants of the original Empire led by Mornhavon, are ready to make their move to assert sovereignty over the nations once again.

In Blackveil (2011), a joint expedition between the Eletians and Sacoridians, including Karigan, enters Blackveil Forest in order to determine the fate of Argenthyne, the lost capital of the Eletians. Grandmother also enters Blackveil after receiving a vision that she must "wake the Sleepers." At the Wall, Alton and Estral Andovian race to uncover the mysteries of its making and how it may be repaired, if it can be at all.

In Mirror Sight (2014), Karigan finds herself two hundred years in the future, in a Sacoridia which fell to the Second Empire. Now she must find a way to return to her own time in order to prevent her country's fall.

In Firebrand (2017), Karigan, while still recovering from her travel into Blackveil and through time, is sent on another mission, while a creation of the Second Empire kidnaps the king and takes his place.

In Winterlight (2021), Karigan, returning from a mission to recruit the ph'edrose to help stand against Mornhavon, finds that Second Empire is readying itself for an all-out assault on Sacoridia, and that they have aligned themselves with the Darrow Raiders, a notorious group of brigands thought exterminated by Colonel Mapstone a generation before.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Karigan and nearly every other female Green Rider, not to mention the female Weapons.
  • Alien Catnip: The Eletians loooove Master Gruntler's dark chocolate. It even is shown to have healing properties for their species in Blackveil and Mirror Sight. Whenever they pass through Sacor City, Gruntler has to shut the sugary down because they buy so much chocolate that he has to wait for a fresh shipment of ingredients before he can restock the shelves.
  • Ancient Artifact: Every one of the Rider Brooches is a thousand years old, and was worn by one of the original Riders in the war against Mornhavon. When Karigan states that her brooch used to be the First Rider's, the general reaction was that one of Riders had to have had it.
  • Animated Armor: In First Rider's Call, all of the armor in the castle is brought to life by wild magic. They attack the inhabitants for about an hour, then fall apart.
  • Attempted Rape: Karigan is nearly raped by a mercenary, but a double fist to the groin and a good headbutt to the nose end those pretensions. Mel, an orphan raised by Captain Mapstone, is also nearly raped when Sacor City is invaded, but Karigan intervenes in time.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. The messenger horses are well looked after in the books and one fledgling Rider is severely chastised for treating his horse this way.
  • Badass Army: The Black Shields.
  • Blessed with Suck: Part of being an Avatar of Westrion is being able to speak with the dead. Which isn't pleasant when hated enemies won't stop bugging you even after you kill them.
  • Blood Magic: Mornhavon's specialty, and how he creates and strengthens his ultimate weapon, the Black Star. Also used by Sacoridians to create the D'Yer Wall, and not all the people who sacrificed their lives to fortify the wall did so willingly.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Seven Chimneys is a borderline example. It doesn't have the excessive quantity of guns usually expected in such, but those it does have take a while to fire, and have quite powerful effects on the story.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The ship-in-a-bottle that shows up in the Seven Chimneys library early in the first book appears to be just a bit of excessive detail used to illustrate how odd Seven Chimneys is. Then, in High King's Tomb, someone breaks the bottle...
    • One of the books in that same library—in the section on the arcane arts—is all blank pages. In High King's Tomb you find out precisely why.
    • On the very first page of book 1 an owl observes Shawdell as he begins the process of breaching the D'Yer Wall, as well as when he actually collapses a small portion of it.
  • Chekhov's Skill: At the beginning of The High King's Tomb Karigan gets in a swordfight and loses because she was wearing a formal gown that restricted her movements, and afterwards convinces Drent to teach her how to fight in formal wear. Towards the end of the book she has to take the place of the recently kidnapped and escaped Lady Estora, which means going into battle wearing a dress.
  • The Chessmaster: Lord-Governer Mirwell fancies himself as one, using an Intrigue (the rough analogue of chess in Sacoridia) board to mark his own and his enemies moves. However, it's the Grey One who was pulling the strings all along.
  • Cliffhanger: Blackveil. Blackveil. As the novel ends, Lord Amberhill is about to be confronted with an ancient spirit, Captain Mapstone faces the unpleasant task of informing Stevic G'ladheon that she sent his daughter on a nearly suicidal mission, and Lynx will soon return to Sacor City and reveal that at most there is only one other survivor of a mission with a 66% fatality rate (or higher.) All of these are blown away by Karigan's fate, whose last moments in the novel exemplify this trope. After shattering the looking mask, she finds herself enclosed in rectangular stone box she is unable to break out of. She has no idea where she is and, beginning to suffocate, she realizes she probably will never find out.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Amberhill returns a magic ring that once belonged to the last Sea King to the grave of its rightful owner. The next time he looks at his hand, it's back on his finger.
  • Cool Horse: The messenger service horses are not only smarter and more durable than regular horses, they are the chosen of Salvastar, the steed of Westrion the death god. They're also all named after bird species (Condor, Robin, etc.)
    • Mostly bird species: there's also Firefly and Moth
  • Creepy Monotone: The wraiths.
  • Cutting the Knot: Rather than play Intrigue with the shades of Amilton and Shawdell in order to escape the in-between place, Karigan destroys the board.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Well, just one forest in particular. Blackveil forest had a nice big magic wall built to keep people from going there - and more importantly to keep anything from the forest from getting out. Book 4 is centered on going in anyway.
  • Doorstopper: The first book is reasonably sized, but they get longer as the series goes on. Book 5 is 760 pages. Book 6 is 800.
  • Downer Ending / Bittersweet Ending - The ending of Book 4 is one of these, but which one? Amberhill is shipwrecked, Estral has been rendered completely mute, Grandmother and what remains of her band escape, Yates is dead, and Karrigan wakes up in a sarcophagus...again. However, the damage to the wall has been stopped and was slowly reversing under Estral's care. Oh, and the whole mission that was the reason for the Blackveil expedition? Successful, despite the casualties.
    • The ending of Firebrand: Karrigan and Enver are forced to part ways because he is entering his first Unfolding (think puberty, but more violent) and will literally force himself on her if she doesn't leave. She still considers him a friend, but the implication is that the Eletian High Council may have sent him with her for just that purpose.
  • Due to the Dead: Karigan learns of a ceremony the original Riders used to honor their dead while time traveling in the second book, and revives the tradition at the end of the book. The palace tombs have an entire community of caretakers who live their entire lives tending the tombs of long dead heroes and royals and honoring their memories.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Karigan Helgadorf G'ladheon.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Estora tricks her cousin Spane into confessing his blackmail of her in front of Zachary, whom he thinks is unconscious, and Beryl, whom he thinks is nothing but a servant.
  • Epic Fail: Karrigan's date at the start of Book 3. Gets really dressed up for a date with a representative of a foreign merchant house. And winds up in a sword fight. In a dress and corset. In the middle of a museum. Kicking Ass in All Her Finery is averted on that occasion, but as a result of this Epic Fail she decides to learn it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Mornhavon kills the boy that Hadriax el Fex considered like a son, he goes over to the natives in order to stop him.
  • Evil Empire: The Arcosian Empire.
  • Evil Overlord: Mornhavon the Black. As of Mirror Sight, future Amberhill.
  • Exact Words: The book that describes how the D'Yer wall was built can only be read in the High King's Tomb. Which High King? There is only one High King - the current one (Work on a King's tomb begins shortly after the coronation, so that it will be ready when the King needs it).
  • Expy: Damian Frost and his wife, Lady are heavily reminiscent of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry.
  • Eye Scream: After her travels through time, Karigan ends up with a shard of a magic mirror stuck in her eye. The menders decide that even if they could remove it safely, the eye is damaged beyond repair.
  • Famous Ancestor: G'ladheon is derived from Galadheon, which is the Arcosian word for traitor. The G'ladheon line was founded by Hadriax el Fex, later known as Hadriax Galadheon, who was the right hand man of Allesandros del Mornhavon until he defected to the Sacoridians after Mornhavon crossed the Moral Event Horizon too many times.
  • Fantastic Racism: Thanks to the atrocities committed by Mornhavon the Black, magic users became prejudiced against, so strongly that people are still suspicious of magic in the story's present day, a thousand years later. This has caused problems, as while destroying or losing all the things that would allow the rise of a second Mornhavon, they also lost or destroyed things that would have helped them deal with the aftermath of the original, which is a very real problem now that the D'Yer wall has been breached. The Riders - whose skill in magic is not widely known, and tends to be limited to a single skill each - are implied to be just about all the mages that Sacoridia has left.
  • Fantasy Contraception: The Rider Brooch keeps serving female Riders from getting pregnant, but does not prevent male Riders from fathering children.
  • A God Am I: Mornhavon claimed it, and his followers in the Second Empire actually believe it.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: Mirror Sight whisks Karigan away from Sacoridia's Sword and Sorcery setting to its future evolution: a Victorianesque world powered not by steam but by hydraulics plus magic (based on the author's work experience in a 19th-century hydraulic textile mill). Comes complete with magical wristwatches.
  • Gentleman Thief: Raven Mask, who is also a Chick Magnet.
  • Ghost Memory: Karigan is briefly possessed by a F'ryan Coblebay (a swordmaster initiate) and fights another swordsmaster to save her own life. Later, the moves and skill he used is available to her, making her a better fighter than before.
  • God in Human Form: Karigan is Westrion's (the death god) Avatar. This neatly explains all her powers. Fading out is simply entering the spirit realm, and if she goes too far she is no longer bound by time just like any spirit. It also explains why she can see ghosts and why they come to her for aid.
  • God Needs Prayer Badly: The polytheistic gods of Sacoridia don't want the Second Empire to win because if they do, they'll forcibly replace all worship of them with worship of Mornhavon.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!/Sexist Matriarchy: The Play Within A Book Mad Queen Oddacious provides examples of both. Karigan muses that it was probably written to demonstrate how unwise it is to give a woman power.
    • But she also notes that the play enjoyed a resurgence of popularity during the reign of Queen Isen, who was well-loved.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Queen Estora, noted throughout Sacordia for her gorgeous golden locks, is one of the nicest characters in the series.
  • I Am Who?: Karigan finds out that she is Westrion's avatar in the third book. After she performs her duty, he kindly erases her memory so she doesn't have to deal with it.
  • I Call It "Vera": Karigan briefly toys with naming her sabre Fang, since people who discover the body of the scorpion-like monster she killed remark that some great beast set its fangs into its belly.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Invoked. Blackveil forest (a.k.a Kanmorhan Vane) just sounds like a nice, happy, fun place to visit, doesn't it?
  • I See Dead People: One of Karigan's powers.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: F'ryan's message and magical Rider brooch.
    • Karigan's mother also asked her in-laws to give her MacGuffin to Karigan, but since she referred to it by it's Eletian name, and the relatives in question didn't know what a muna'riel was, they weren't able to honor that request for more than a decade.
  • Immortality Immorality: One of Mornhavon's goals was to become immortal after he learns that the Eletians are. He vivisects many of them to reach this goal.
  • Intangible Time Travel: Karigan can do this when wild magic is warping Rider abilities.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Karigan has to learn to do this after the Raven Mask escapes her in his first appearance.
  • Living Lie Detector: Captain Mapstone's special gift. This makes her invaluable to the king.
  • Love Triangle: Karigan loves both King Zachary and Lord Alton, and they both return her feelings. Neither can marry a commoner, however, and since she knows this she does not act on her feelings. This is further confused in the third book when Lady Estora starts to develop feelings for her betrothed, Zachary, and Raven Mask is attracted to Karigan.
    • Either simplified or further complicated in the fourth book when Alton enters into a relationship with Karigan's friend Estral.
    • And then by the sixth book, Karigan falls in love with a boy from the future who she has to leave behind when she returns to her own time, and Estral gains another suitor.
    • At the end of the seventh book, Queen Estora takes Karigan and her husband aside and says that she's perfectly alright with Karigan being the Royal Mistress so long as the two are discreet about it.
  • Master of One Magic: Every Rider has one, and only one, magical ability.
  • Master Swordsman: Every member of the Order of the Black Shield, which is why most people refer to them as Weapons. Karigan doesn't qualify... yet (Though Armsmaster Drent is working on that).
    • She finally attains level one master status in Firebrand, making her a rarity among Riders (Most Riders with swordmaster potential spend so much time on the road that they never get the training time needed to reach their full potential, and most of the rest end up dying in the line of duty). The King is level 3. All the Black Shields are level 4.
  • Meaningful Name: G'ladheon is short for Galadheon, which is Arcosian for "betrayer". The first Galadheon betrayed Mornhavon the Black.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Intrigue (a chess analogue) can be played with just two players, but it's best when played as a triad.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Karigan's second moonstone, a gift from her departed mother.
  • The Mole: Major Spencer for the good guys, Castellan Crowe for the bad guys.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, Mornhavon's slaughter of the Lions is treated this way by Hadriax.
  • Mutilation Interrogation: Inverted in The High King's Tomb. Spencer does this to an evil henchman who had already lost one hand. To top it off, this same henchman had driven the interrogator's brother to suicide by blaming him for an incident that made their sadistic master cut off both his hands.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Mornhavon the Black.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Timas Mirwell's getting Karigan suspended from Selium over a petty personal dispute caused her to not be present for his father's plot to murder the heirs for a number of rival heirs, and for her to cross paths with a dying F'ryan Cobblebay, setting in motion the events that would thwart the Mirwell's attempted treason later in the first book.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Beryl Spencer manages to identify and turn all of Spane's allies in court and intercept all of his blackmail material on the queen between chapters. Not bad for someone whose previous appearances as The Mole always ended with her being exposed and captured.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The Elt or Eletians, elves in all but name. They're incredibly arrogant and very conscious of how much innate magic they have compared to humans. On occasion, though, the human characters will call them on it — and on how unhelpful they can be when the fate of the world is at stake. The villain of the first book is an Eletian gone bad.
  • Out-of-Character Alert:
    • Why Lady Estora brings F'ryan's love letter back to Karigan and how the Karigan realizes it contains a coded message.
    • Estora realizes her husband has been replaced when he starts doting over her - very unusual behavior in a man who only married her for reasons of politics and is secretly in love with another woman.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: Zachary was the previous king's younger son, but he was named heir over his older brother Amilton after their father realized that his firstborn was utterly unfit to rule. Amilton didn't take being disinherited well.
  • Phantom Thief: Impoverished nobleman Xandis Amberhill becomes the Raven Mask, using his wall-climbing and swordfighting skills, to restore his fortune (with a shag or two on the side).
  • Playing with Fire: Mara's special Rider talent.
  • Please Get Off Me: Zachary says this to Karigan when she uses herself to protect him from an animated armor axeman.
  • Power at a Price: The Rider brooches grant some pretty neat abilities, but there is a cost. For Captain Mapstone, it causes or worsens arthritic pain. Karigan usually just winds up really tired if she overdoes things.
  • Public Execution: King Zachary has a public execution for the traitorous Lord Mirwell. In later books, it's revealed that while all executions are public, attending them is socially discouraged for the most part.
  • Punctuation Shaker: F'ryan, G'ladheon, D'Yer... Justified since we get to see there was a period in Sacoridia's history when making these contractions was popular. The original forms of the names were Galadheon and Deyer.
  • Pursued Protagonist: The first novel quickly introduces F'ryan Cobblebay, who is pursued by unknown antagonists and mortally wounded. He passes on his messages and his horse to Karigan.
  • Rank Up: In Book 6 the Riders are upgraded to a Colonel's command to give formerly-Captain Mapstone more authority when dealing with the rest of the military. This results in several other Riders (including Karigan) also getting promotions as this creates more rank slots under her. Karigan later gets demoted because she spends too much time on field missions to handle the official responsibilities of her rank.
  • Red Shirt: The three Sacoridians sent into Blackveil along with Karigan, Yates, and Lynx.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Jendara
  • Refusal of the Call: Karigan honestly tries between the first and second books, but eventually the call gets so strong that she finds herself answering it in her sleep, to the point where at one point she wakes up to find that she'd ridden halfway to the capital in her nightgown.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Rider Yates. Especially a punch to the reader after he miraculously survives most of the book.
    • Also Graelalia. Especially considering that she's the sister of Eletia's Prince, but her death was necessary for Karigan to succeed.
    • Enver could also qualify, somewhat, considering the machinations behind his assignment.
  • Scrapbook Story: Excerpts from the Diary of Hadriax el Fex are used to provide Backstory for First Rider's Call.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Kanmorhan Vane, aka the Blackveil Forest, is a place severely contaminated by Mornhavon the Black's magic and sealed all around by the magical D'Yer Wall. Even after hundreds of years it still warps all the plants and animals sealed inside. That's because Mornhavon is still sealed inside, too, albeit as something incorporeal. The High King's Tomb also has a place under the palace catacombs where evil spirits are sealed away from walking the world of the living and causing untold destruction. Naturally, the seal gets broken.
  • Shoot the Messenger: This is apparently a fairly common cause of death for Green Riders.
    • Riders have historically (except in one case) been highly valued servants of the Throne, and killing one, or hindering them in any way in the execution of their duties is heavily discouraged.
  • Shout-Out: The Terrygood River.
  • Smart People Play Chess: It's called "Intrigue" and can have either two or three players. Karigan's not a fan.
  • Stable Time Loop: Karigan going back in time leads to the successful rescue of her ancestor, Hadriax el Fex, while he was defecting. He then goes on to take the Arcosian word "betrayer" (Galadheon) as his surname, and moves to the islands where he would father her clan.
    • Not to mention that Karigan's actions resulted in her ancestor seeing a vision which inspired him to defect in the first place.
  • Suicide by Cop: Jendara. When one considers the alternative (being tortured for a month, and then staked out - still alive - for the vultures), this decision (and the considerably faster and relatively painless death that went with it) is understandable.
  • Sword and Sorcery: The series as a whole, except for Mirror Sight, which substitutes Gaslamp Fantasy.
  • Take Up My Sword: Or rather brooch, although he does give her his sword, too.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Karigan honestly tried to resist the Rider Call, but after an incident where she woke up on her horse in her nightgown two towns away from where she went to bed, she gave up.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: In First Rider's Call, we have a Stable Time Loop, where Karigan exists even though her ancestor would have died without her time traveling intervention. In Blackveil, the present doesn't change until after Karigan changes the past, with only her recalling the alternate timeline.
  • True Companions: The Green Riders are like family, with Captain Mapstone as the mother figure.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Karigan's full name and title as of the end of book 7 is Her Highness, Lady Rider Sir Karigan Helgadorf G'ladheon, Knight of the Order of the Firebrand, sub-Chief of Clan G'ladheon, Lady Winterlight, heir to the throne of Eletia.
  • Tsundere: Karigan.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Mornhavon the Black, once known as Alessandros del Mornhavon, used to be a sweet innocent child who played with boats in fountains and then an idealistic young adventurer longing to prove he was a worthy heir to his father.
  • Variant Chess: Intrigue, as mentioned earlier. It's used as a teaching tool for noble youths, much like chess is believed to have been.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: Karigan saves the day by suddenly becoming the avatar of the god of death and dealing a supernatural smackdown to a bunch of Mooks. Then said god of death wipes her memory to allow her to go back to a normal life.
  • Wham Line: In Mirror Sight, "The emperor has fond memories of playing with boats in fountains when he was a boy." Mornhavon is the only character known to have done that, and it's the line that lets the reader know that Mornhavon is the third personality inside Amberhill.
  • Write Back to the Future: Karigan is able to return from the future in Mirror Sight because of letters left for her and stored in the Royal Tombs by the caretakers and Weapons for centuries. Which were left for her to find because she made it back and arranged for the letters to be written.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Hadriax el Fex.
  • You Monster!: Mornhavon the Black is treated this way. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone sane who doesn't think he was a monster. Even his most loyal friend abandoned him after he killed the boy who was like a son to him to power his magic.

Alternative Title(s): First Riders Call