Genre: Urban Fantasy – Young Adult
Series: Riders #1
Publisher: Tor (February 16,2016)
Length: 384 pages
My Rating: 3 stars
Riders is a YA fantasy novel from Tor Teen which is set in our present world. The story revolving around mysterious creatures who might be angels or might be demons. The problem is that our protagonist Gideon Blake, eighteen year old U.S. Army Ranger, doesn’t know which is which. Actually, he doesn’t really know what is going on most of the time, because he discovers he might have died and been resurrected as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!
Wait, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself, because, as the book opens, we don’t know any of that. In fact, the beginning of the book is actually the end. Yeah, you read that right. Riders starts at the end. Gideon Blake waking up in an interrogation chamber, tied to a chair, gagged with his head covered and no idea where the hell he is at. And it is only through his conversations with his interrogator that the story begins to come into focus.
First, we discover that young Gideon has had a rough few years: his dad dying unexpectedly; the lose sending him into a downward spiral of trouble; and ultimately it causing him to join the military to straighten out his life. And it does. Or, at least, it had until a horrible training accident occurs. An accident which should have killed Gideon . . . but didn’t. Or did it? Gideon isn’t quite so sure.
After finding his way back home to California (ostensibly to stay with his mom while he recovers), the nagging belief that he actually died spurs Gideon into action. Well, that and a feeling that something mysterious is going on around him. And once a group of strange people show up at a party, speaking cryptic and exhibiting some bizarre powers, Gideon finds himself thrown together with a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl who wants him to help her save humanity from an ancient evil which she herself barely understands.
From this setup the fun begins. Gideon and his companion journeying around to find others like him. The truth about his situation slowly coming into focus (though much of it is still in doubt even at the end); his fellow horsemen knowing more – and less – than himself; and the conclusion to this episode demanding a sequel as soon as possible.
One of the main things I found interesting about Riders was the structure of the narrative. Veronica Rossi doing a wonderful job using the “ending” as a jumping off point that immediately built tension and excitement from the first line. That coupled with Gideon himself telling the story through his first person responses to his “interrogator” was a clever and refreshing way to tell this sort of tale.
Another thing which set this book apart from other YA faire was the great characters, specifically how they actually speak and act like young adults. I mean, we can all agree there are YA books out there where the characters resemble thirty year olds rather than teenagers, right? Not that those books are bad, but it is really refreshing to read about people who fit their age. Gideon, in particular, was a fun narrator; his insecurities, his emotions, and his flaws amazingly realistic and entertaining.
Even though Gideon was the star of this show, I have to just go ahead and admit that the coolest thing about Riders was the horses. The four horsemen of the apocalypse have to have cool horses, right, and Veronica Rossi definitely gives them some. Each horse distinctly original, exhibiting their own individual badass powers, and gifted with a unique personality which slowly shines through.
After saying all those great things about the book, I’m sure many of you wonder why I only gave it three stars. Simply put, the reason is that too much of the time I kept wondering why Gideon was doing what he was doing. I mean, his acceptance of his “mysterious” fate seemed a little too easy and too quick, and his instantaneous decision to travel around with a complete stranger (No matter how attracted he is to her.) was a bit of a head scratcher. Plus, it seemed a bit silly that he never really understands what the hell is going on – even when he begins training to fight “demons.” All of these things really detracted from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, Riders was a fun YA fantasy book. It definitely isn’t your typical angels versus demons story, and Gideon is a really entertaining protagonist. While I can’t say it reinvented the YA wheel, Veronica Rossi entertained me enough that I will be picking up book two to see where she goes from here.
Purchase the book at Amazon.