Saturday, March 4, 2017

Firebrand by Kristen Britain: A (Mostly) Spoiler Free Review

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Note: Minor spoilers/references to Mirror Sight in this review.

Summary: Green Rider Karigan G'ladheon, not yet recovered in heart or mind from her unexpected trip through time, is assigned a new mission. She must seek out the legendary creatures called p'ehdrosian to renew an alliance of old in the face of dire threats from enemies who seek to destroy Sacoridia using dark magic.

Each step on her journey northward grows more perilous as she faces attacks from groundmites, encounters with ghosts, and, ultimately, the threat of the necromancer and leader of Second Empire, Grandmother, as they approach the enemy encampment in the Lone Forest.

Meanwhile, King Zachary of Sacoridia has been kidnapped by an ice elemental who is allied with Second Empire. Can Karigan free her king from captivity with just two allies by her side?

I've been a huge fan of the Green Rider series pretty much from the beginning. I would call it a guilty pleasure if I had any shame when it comes to reading, but I don't. For all the flaws of the books, I love the world, the characters and especially the relationship between the king and his Green Rider.

Like many others, Mirror Sight was a huge disappointment for me, so much so that I also reviewed that book. I felt it was a heavy handed attempt to force Karigan away from the relationship that is ultimately the heart of this series. I've been both excited and anxious about Firebrand; the outcome of this book absolutely determined if I continue reading the series or not.

I am pleased and very relieved to say, you can lay your doubts to rest. It feels like Britain has finally committed to the relationship we've all been wanting from the very first book. Cade's memory is still a massively unwelcome distraction to Karigan through the course of the book, but it seems that being in Zachary's presence in a way neither has been together before has allowed both to confront themselves...and each other. What will happen between them from here, well, that's for the next book to decide. Things are infinitely more complicated these days, but the fire is still there after all these years. The short time they have together is by far the highlight of the book.

As for the story itself, we pick up again with some older plot threads from the Second Empire, now that Karigan is back in Sacoridia proper and dealing with more immediate threats. Many familiar faces are back, and not all of them are welcome. It's a literal trip down memory lane as she once again pushes north, revisiting ghosts of the past on her journey to seek out mythical allies of old. However, the mission is quickly waylaid in the chaos of the Second Empire's latest attacks that leave the kingdom without its king in a critical time, and the desperate race to rescue him.

It's actually a little jarring after the events of Blackveil and Mirror Sight, but the sluggish opening of the book is an unexpected benefit as we get reacquainted with old friends, some of whom haven't played major roles since Blackveil. Of particular interest to series fans, we get a rare extended view from King Zachary himself as he gets a taste of the trials he's unknowingly been sending his favorite Green Rider to face.

Once it gets moving, the action is as swift and chaotic as it's always been in the series, and never without sacrifice. It does feel a little anticlimactic, and certain loose ends are tied up just a little too neatly in the post-climax of the end. However, there is a very real sense of change coming, as Karigan and King Zachary prepare to deal with old threats, new challenges, and their own, ever-conflicted hearts.

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