I hit so fast it felt like I landed everywhere at once—feet, a**, head.
The last thing I remember was hearing the crunching of bones in my arm and my legs. And that was it.
I was done.
Gideon Blake boarded a plane for Fort Benning the day he got his high school diploma. But during his training to become an army ranger, he died in a parachuting accident.
Then…he woke up. Impossibly, he’s soon healed, being pursued by monsters and falling in love with a mysterious girl—a girl who refuses to tell him what the heck is going on.
But he finds out soon enough: Gideon is War incarnate, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and he has to find the other three members of his team—Famine, Death and Conquest—before the bad guys do. Riders is ya fantasy written by Veronica Rossi and published February 16th 2016 by Tor Teen. Hardcover, 384 pages.
Even before I realized that Dan Bittner was narrating the Riders audiobook (which is a huge bonus!), I was hooked by the premise: the four horsemen? Cool factor, amirite?
We start out the story in an interrogation room—after all the action has occurred. A disbelieving, top-secret investigator is interviewing Gideon Blake about said action in some kind of army bunker.
I’m in a small room with pine walls and floor boards. Even the trim is pine, so. Either I was eaten by a tree or I’m in a cabin.”
We quickly learn that the US military rescued Gideon and the other horsemen from some kind of epic failure in Denmark—and that some girl named “Daryn” elected to stay behind. Which upset Gideon so much the army had to tranquilize the kid.
I think someone has a crush 😏
So now, all Gideon wants is to get out of the restraints placed on him by the military, but first he must tell them his story. We learn the details as gradually as the military listeners do.
If you’re starting to hanker after the plot details, trust me, I understand! That’s a feeling I had to get used to during the course of the story. The plot mainly consists of finding the other horsemen (three of whom end up being Americans, which is kind of funny, but they end up traveling to a few different countries anyway) and, in the very end, facing the monsters they’ve been “incarnated” to battle. We do get glimpses of the future conflict in the apocalyptic touches, such as the monsters themselves, the super weapons belonging to the four horsemen and—the coolest speculative element—the supernatural horses featured on the covers of books I and II. But the mysterious Daryn keeps many secrets of their incarnation and missions to herself.
So the conflict comes mainly from the story structure of Gideon’s interview, which is a genius mode of storytelling for Veronica Rossi. Her greatest strength as a writer (imo, of course) is her character voice. Gideon’s voice, ah! I just love it so much. If you’ve read Veronica Rossi before, you probably know about her way with characters. In Riders, she enriches the YA genre in one very specific way. To explain:
If there’s one cringe-worthy commonality in YA fiction, it’s the girly guys. Seriously, where are all the macho males? I married a manly man and he’s definitely worth knowing and representing in YA fiction. Give me confidence! Swagger! Muscles! Convictions! Loudmouths! Anger issues! I would love to see more testosterone in YA, and I think other genre readers would, too.
So I thoroughly enjoyed Rossi’s extremely successful macho male perspective. Two of the four horsemen have serious aggression issues (War and Death, which somehow doesn’t surprise me!) and it’s interesting to watch them battle things out. Gideon turns into a jealous jerk, at times, but it’s a plausible character fault to go along with his strong leadership tendencies and smart mouth (not to mention his age and circumstances).
Gideon is also completely sassy and hilarious in a very character-specific way.
Her navy-blue suit looks expensive and she has a Ph.D kind of vibe, like she knows everything about something. And wrote a book about it. A civilian. I’d bet anything.”
Now does that scream soldier boy or what?
And the audio narrator! Dan Bittner stole my soul!! He saved Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, for me, by basically BECOMING Cole St. Clair—but this. This is magnificent! Rossi’s and Bittner’s talents really bring Gideon alive, in the Riders audiobook. Bittner seems to go for the voice-driven authors and I’m so glad he does because he rocks their work.
I loved this sooo much, it’s exactly my kind of thing, even though there’s little plot involved; most of it is “series set up” and character development. In that sense, it reminds me of Extracted by RR Hayward, which is also a book about “setting up the crew”; but Riders is much funnier and I loved Rossi’s characters far more than Hayward’s.
Recommended To :
I think Riders will be best enjoyed by audiences who look for strong character voice (especially humor) and character-driven narratives over strong plotting. The speculative element, while present, is minimal beyond the obvious “four horsemen” thing. It’s possible that the series as a whole has a fabulous plot; but book II doesn’t come out until next month, so we’ll have to wait and see 🙂 And, of course, I highly recommend the audiobook, although I’m sure the regular book is just as fabulous….
The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.