P.C. Hodgell – To Ride A Rathorn

There lie twelve years between book 3 and 4 of the Godstalker Chronicles by P.C. Hodgell. The series started in the early eighties, with a new installment almost ten years later, while many years later Hodgell finally got the chance to continue what looks on the outside as a not particular high fantasy while the inside is refreshing and original. I had many praises for Seeker’s Mask, the third book, so when there is such a large gap in between novels, there can always be the question on how well the story is continued, especially as Hodgell didn’t publish any other works in between. There could be the chance of a change in style or influences from other fantasy as during the long interval the popularity of fantasy has grown greatly, becoming more mainstream with an expanded market.

To Ride A Rathorn (2006) picks up almost immediately after the events of Seeker’s Mask and reading the two books continuously I felt no change in pace or style. It was as if there was no long period between them. Fortunately this time Hodgell did not waste the beginning on a recap of what happened before so that the start is really fresh.

While Seeker’s Mask was a great adventure story, the adventure in To Ride A Rathorn is more confined as the main protagonist is sent to a military school for training. Lacking any military basics the main character has to prove herself able enough. Luckily she is supported by side characters from the previous novel, of which some have now a larger or smaller role. Still it’s the main character who gets almost all of the attention, which is also somewhat of a minor flaw, as some interesting minor storylines remain rather undeveloped.

Although Hodgell manages to put in a lot of her own odd quirks in the plot, the school setting makes the plotting to easy, as it is a common format many authors have used and while not really predictable, the flow of the story is familiar as the setting is confined to a standard well-known environment. If it is developed naturally it can’t go wrong and Hodgell makes no mistakes. It is fun to read and while the many pages easily flip on, there seems too little time to develop the side characters which play a larger role this time.

This plot is not another rollercoaster ride and follows a regular track. Only near the end Hodgell lets go for a short run. In a way it is not so bad as the downside of a rollercoaster is that it’s harder to follow what’s exactly going on and it’s easier to grasp certain complexities. There is much less of that here.

To Ride A Rathorn is good sequel and a fairly standalone novel. I enjoyed it a lot although it did not bring the unpredictability of Seeker’s Mask. Either way, it stands out among the more well-known and popular fantasy series and I will certainly promote this series to a greater prominence. Highly recommended.

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