Riders by Veronica Rossi
Series: Riders #1
Publication Date: February 16th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
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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.
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?
This book had a great tone, lots of action, and a really creative set up. And, of course, I was tickled pink by the military main character, but I could be a little biased on that part. But I did have a few problems with some of the characters.
The book was told through a framing device: Gideon is recounting the story to an interrogator after he’s been captured. There are short chapters scattered throughout where we come back to the ‘present’ and to Gideon and his predicament. Normally I don’t like framing devices that try and pass the whole book off as someone actually telling it (books are haaaard, ain’t no one going to be that eloquent off the cuff!), but in this case it was easy enough to ignore, and I did like the interjection chapters.
The bulk of the plot is pretty straight-forward. Four boys find out they have super powers (ish) because they are the four horsemen of the apocalypse (ish) and they all need to find each other and protect some sacred item from the demons who want to use it to nefarious ends. Cool, I’m on board, lots of room in that basic set up for rollickin good times. And we got some very nice action and logistics and running around. There was a good pace in this, a sense of tension and anticipation that kept me reading, so much so that it was halfway through the book before I realized…a good quarter of everything going on is just Daryn not telling people anything? It got more prominent in the latter part of the book, which was very annoying. I dislike plots that rely on “I can’t tell you because reasons” to draw things out. I feel like it was unnecessary, too; there was plenty of stuff going on to carry a novel without constantly saying “I’ll tell you a few chapters from now. …because reasons.”
I loved Gideon, especially his anger management issues and the really poignant way the book handled the death of his father. I also very much enjoyed the way the horseman powers were handled, and especially the creative interpretation of Famine. (Actually, Sebastian in general, I loved him.)
I take exception to a couple things, though. First, all the horsemen are…well, men. Now, on the face of it, I don’t mind dudely ensemble stories. Really. I like dude groups, it’s cool. But when you’ve got all your main characters as dudes, you need to fill out the rest of the cast with some strong ladies. In Riders we get…Daryn. Daryn’s contribution to the plot could be replaced with a broken cell phone. Her role is to relay information from the Powers That Be…and that’s it. She’s a passive receiver who does nothing else. She just shows up, says “you’re a horseman, I’m not going to tell you what that means because your brain would explode or something, let’s go get the next guy now,” and that’s the end of her involvement in the book’s central plot. Our only other female characters are an interrogator who is little more than a sounding board, a mother and a sister who are gone after the first few chapters, and two female demons who never get speaking lines. The plot-moving roles in this book are full of sausage.
Second, Marcus. He’s the only POC character in the book, and he’s reduced to a surly figure with very few speaking lines and little development beyond “Gideon hates him.” Those two get in fistfights constantly for no discernible reason, which is fine, boys are stupid and Gideon has War-super-powers that screw things up. But that’s it. That’s all of Marcus’s character. We learn nothing else about him. He’s a violent black man with a violent past who doesn’t talk and gets called a psychopath on more than one occasion. Playing true to some really uncomfortable stereotypes, there, book.
Rating: 4 out of 5