Riders: Can you outrun destiny?

Riders by Veronica Rossi YA fantasy book reviewsRiders by Veronica Rossi YA fantasy book reviewsRiders by Veronica Rossi

Eighteen year old Gideon Blake has waited his whole life to become a US Army ranger, but when his whole life comes to an abrupt end, those dreams can no longer become a reality. Instead, he finds himself wearing a mysterious metal bracelet he can’t remove and most certainly not as dead as he should be. Gideon discovers that he is, in fact, living out (ahem) his true destiny: he has been reincarnated as one of the horsemen of the apocalypse, War.

Gideon should have died. Waking up instead with a metal bracelet he can’t remove, and the ability to affect the behaviour with his own rage (using said metal bracelet) he realises something is amiss. He does what would come naturally to all twenty-first century teens: he Googles it. When the results come up with nothing short of super hero websites, he laughs it off.

Enter Daryn. Daryn explains to our unwitting hero that he, being one of the four horsemen, must round up the other three. Despite the slightly shaky plotting, Daryn provides what most YA readers will be very happy to see the arrival of: the love interest. She likes pancakes, which is a bonus for her, but she can’t explain why she and Gideon need to go on an epic road-trip across America to round up the other horsemen, and as a result her role feels a little empty.

It is our protagonist Gideon who tells our story, so we get to know him pretty well. Being War, it’s fair to say he has a few anger issues, which come across nicely through his sassy first-person narration. He’s well characterised and his distinctive voice is bound to please YA readers familiar with the trope.

Seeker (Riders) Kindle Edition by Veronica Rossi

Sequel

The first horseman he picks up is Famine — or Sebastian — a very sweet Latino actor who has the ability to give people huge sugar cravings. We spend far less time with Death (Marcus) and Jode (Conquest) respectively, because they’re only introduced towards the end of the book. There is a tendency for these young males to go slightly overkill with the macho-macho — a result, perhaps, of Veronica Rossi trying to do the male perspective justice. A little sensitivity would’ve gone a long way from the pissing contest the story sometimes felt like.

The plot moves swiftly along and will have readers racing towards the twist at its finale. Some readers may be surprised to find a lack of mythology in the book. Its contents imply a biblical backstory, but Rossi pulls back and leaves the mythology mostly to our imagination.

All in all, Riders (2016) marks the exciting start to a series that will have YA readers scrabbling for the next instalment. Whilst some of its supporting cast fall a little flat, the characters that matter will delight and entertain in equal measure, despite needing to work on their anger issues…

Published in 2016. Riders. A new fantasy adventure from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Veronica Rossi. For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse. Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen–Conquest, Famine, and Death–are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence. They fail. Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger. But will anyone believe him?

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RACHAEL "RAY" MCKENZIE, with us since December 2014, was weaned onto fantasy from a young age. She grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies and devoured C.S. Lewis’ CHRONICLES OF NARNIA not long after that (it was a great edition as well -- a humongous picture-filled volume). She then moved on to the likes of Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy and adored The Hobbit (this one she had on cassette -- those were the days). A couple of decades on, she is still a firm believer that YA and fantasy for children can be just as relevant and didactic as adult fantasy. Her firm favourites are the British greats: Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman, and she’s recently discovered Ben Aaronovitch too. Her tastes generally lean towards Urban Fantasy but basically anything with compelling characters has her vote.

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3 comments

  1. Conquest? I thought the other Horseman was Plague. I guess that would be icky.

    • I know! I found that strange too. I kind of like the idea of plague personified

      • Becky Aswell /

        Fun with words/concepts. Both plague and conquest strike, overrun, and vanquish or destroy. Conquest is of course more ‘active’ and we tend to perceive plague as passive.

        The comments made me look: apparently the etymology of the word ‘plague’ can be traced back to Latin and Greek roots meaning ‘strike, blow, wound, beat, hit’ and becomes more specifically associated with disease in the early C15th.

        I rather enjoy the image of plague as a conqueror sweeping in like an implacable horde.

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