Monday, May 5, 2008

The High King's Tomb

All right, folks, before we get to the actual review portion of the evening, I just want to warn for major spoilers here. Sorry, but I'm not going to be able to keep this entry anywhere near spoiler-free. The High King's Tomb is the third book in a series, and it's a series I love and want to gush about. So if you don't like spoilers, just go pick up Green Rider by Kristen Britain, which is the first book, and read that instead.

Okay, seriously, just go read the series. I mean it. Don't spoil yourself by reading this entry!

Title: The High King's Tomb
Author: Kristen Britain

What it's about: So Karigan G'ladheon is a Green Rider, a member of the Sacoridia's messenger corps. She's the sort of person who always winds up in troublesome situations, such as when she first encountered a dying Rider and vowed to take his message to the king, not knowing that this would lead to her narrowly escaping death several times, thwarting a coup, thwarting a disembodied evil, and plenty of other heroic things. When this book takes off, Karigan is a veteran Rider, and she's off on a message errand with trainee Rider Fergal in tow. They are looking for a book that will help them combat a mysterious group known as the Second Empire that wants to take over Sacoridia. Meanwhile, preparations for King Zachary's marriage are underway, but agents of the Second Empire have other ideas for the king's bride-to-be, Lady Estora. Plenty of things happen, concluding in a climactic encounter in, appropriately enough, the high king's tomb.

What I thought: Awright, so I haven't reviewed the first two books here yet, but I will eventually, but right now I'm gonna blather on about the third book and the series as a whole, pretty much. So first of all, the world of this story, especially the country of Sacoridia and its culture, is very well developed. The history of the provinces, from the Long War to the Clan Wars to the current era is sketched out and then filled in with more and more details as the books go on. I really like how magic is developed, and how Britain's not afraid to get dark with her story, such as the way the D'Yer Wall was created. The Riders' abilities are neat, and Karigan's ability is developed over the books, so what could be a pretty unbelievable turn of events in the third book is actually pretty easy to swallow. Similarly, Britain introduces concepts briefly in earlier books and then returns to them later, like, of course, the D'Yer Wall, the tombs of the kings and heroes, and the white space. Another thing that interested me was the technology level of Sacoridia, which has developed, among other things, the printing press, as well as the detail that goes into the fleshing out the culture. Coffeehouses in an arts district in Sacor City, the hot springs of Selium, Intrigue, and more all give the series a really detailed and real feel. Similarly, the characters are also well-developed. Even the bad guys are empathetic. Take Lord Mirwell in the first book. He was totally plotting the overthrowing of King Zachary and was shown as being a pretty ruthless fellow, but at the same time you could see where he was coming from, even if you didn't agree with him, and he was pretty admirable for his dedication to his clan, his tenacity, and his sheer cunning in all his plotting. Same goes for Grandmother, Mornhavon, and Hadriax. You could really get in their heads and understand where they were coming from. And of course, the good guys are developed even better. Laren, Estora, Zachary, Alton, the other viewpoint characters, and, of course, Karigan are all interesting and well-developed. And you really have to like Karigan. What really makes me like this series, besides all the other awesome things, is that Karigan has a sense of humor. Before this series, I'd equated high fantasy with dry, serious business epic quests. The stakes are still high in these books, but Karigan has a sense of humor and perspective, and that makes her all the more human and relatable. She's really a pretty fun protagonist. Spunky, but not to the extent of being stupid. Capable, with plenty of ability for saving the day, but not invincible. Take, for example, the scene in this book where Immerez is about to chop off her hand. I think that really hit home that Karigan's not invincible. She's combated all sorts of spirits and major evils, but here she's at the mercy of the captain and needs Amberhill's assistance to get out of the bind. And I think it's really neat that her romance with Zachary hasn't gone very easily and looks like it might not happen. Well, personally, I like the idea of Karigan and Alton better, but either way, Britain's really developing things to be difficult yet real. And Zachary and Estora is an interesting dynamic, too. Oh, and the whole thing with Karigan and Fergal on the message errand was good, too. There were a lot of places in the book where we were subtly shown that Karigan, for all her good traits, isn't perfect. Her impatience with Fergal and her reaction to learning about her father's trips to the brothel are two such examples. Seriously, you gotta love fantasy that shows so much depth and development.

Overall: Please. For your own good and enjoyment, get your hands on Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.

1 comment:

Cat said...

I prefer Alton and Karigan getting together as well. Zachary seems to whine against fate an awful lot for a king, and he sure didn't have Karigan's best interests at heart with that little scene at the end of First Rider's Call. Alton acts much more noble. Besides, I hate it that Zachary is the king - what a cliche. A heroine like Karigan doesn't need to marry a king to have a Happy Ever After!