C.J. Cherryh is well known for her ability to develop wonderful ecosystems for the worlds she creates. Even though her worlds are fantastical, they always speak to what is most human. In Rider at the Gate and its sequel Cloud's Rider, Cherryh does not disappoint. We get a mostly recognizable landscape inhabited by previously starfaring humans and the native telepathic fauna. Among the native fauna of this unnamed planet is the fierce and intelligent nighthorse. Nighthorses are curious and addicted to the thoughts and emotions of the human mind and often choose a particular human to be a "rider."The symbiotic relationship that develops between nighthorse and rider is a strong connection meant to be mutually beneficial but sometimes results in a pairing of devastating proportions. Within this alien system Cherryh builds a beautiful coming of age story that captures the often painful and baffling aspects that accompany the human journey to adulthood -- desparate feelings of longing, loneliness and a desire to be independent yet "fit in."
Cherryh is known to take quite a bit of time developing her story and I suggest patience when starting this set. I didn't feel completely drawn into the story until about page 150 of the first book, but after that point couldn't put the books down.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Note to other reviewers: If you've written a review for either of these books, please let me know by posting the permanent URL(s) for your review(s) in the comments. I'll be happy to add a link to your review(s) with my post.