Riders of the Realm. 1, Across the Dark Water, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Riders of the Realm. 1, Across the Dark Water, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Illustrations, maps by David McClellan
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, May 2018, hardcover, $16.99 ([xix +] 417 [+4] pages), Kindle $9.99.
Alvarez’s Riders of the Realm trilogy is a followup to her The Guardian Herd tetralogy. The four Young Adult Guardian Herd novels (Starfire, Stormbound, Landfall, and Windborn, published from September 2014 to September 2016) featured the intelligent, talking pegasi (flying horses, despite the FAQ that “being called a ‘horse’ is an insult to a pegasus”) to the west of the giant continent Anok. More exactly, it featured the five herds there of those pegasi (the Sun Herd, Mountain Herd, Snow Herd, Jungle Herd, and Desert Herd), and the two all-powerful black stallion pegasi, Starfire and Nightwing, fighting to the death for their fate.
Riders of the Realm is about the 140 pegasi from those five herds, led by the mare Echofrost and the stallion Hazelwind, who flee Anok altogether for the unknown southern continent across the Dark Water ocean, and what they find there. They declare themselves a new Herd; Storm Herd. Or rather, since their story takes second place, it’s about the civilization there of the two-legged Landwalkers (humans), their enemies like Gorlan giants, spit-dragons, giant ants, burners (miniature flying, fire-breathing dragons), and other creatures – notably, the pegasi that they have already domesticated – and how they are affected by the arrival of the 140 flying-horse refugees from Anok.
Across the Dark Water is two stories: that of 12-year-old human Rahkki, small for his age, the younger brother of Brauk Stormrunner, one of the officers of the Fifth Clan’s Sky Guard; and of Echofrost, a “sleek silver mare with a mix of dark- and light-purple feathers, white mane and tail, one white sock” (p. x). But it’s mostly about Rahkki and the politics of the Sandwen’s Fifth Clan – about the humans.
The first chapter introduces Rahkki, his adult (21 years old) brother Brauk, and Brauk’s Khilari flyer, Kol:
“Overhead, glittering feathers, shining hides, and polished armor blocked out the sun – it was his brother’s squad of Riders, flying back from patrol. Eighty winged horses, each ridden by a Sandwen warrior, glided in formation, their hooves striking the clouds. There were a total of three squads in the Fifth Clan’s Sky Guard, and Brauk Stormrunner was the Headwind of his. The flying steeds were called Khilari, which meant ‘Children of the Wind,’ and they were sacred in the Sandwen Realm.” (pgs. 2-3)
Across the Dark Water is complex; about the political structure and politics of the Sandwen’s Fifth Clan (of seven clans); about the Sandwen’s relationship with the other species of this southern continent; and about these other species. Riders of the Realm is admirably different from the four novels of The Guardian Herd in that it is about flying horses and humans and how they interact, rather than just about flying horses as was the previous tetralogy, but of less interest to furry fans in that there is so much about humans and not the anthro animals.