Julie Dees | One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
I don’t know if I have enough adjectives to describe just how much I LOVE THIS BOOK! Although I would like to apologize to the author John Royce first. I’ve had this book for quite a while and have just now got a chance to share my review ~ it’s one that was worth the wait though! And just in time to TOP my GIFT-WORTHY list.
Horse-crazy teenager Meagan Roberts is the proud owner of an amazingly rare Palomino Thoroughbred filly (girl horse) named “Promise.” As Meagan dreams of the future and waits for Promise to grow enough to start training, many strange people start showing up and trying to buy the unusual filly from the Roberts family. The prices they offer are both staggering and suspicious. A strange old woman also comes to visit after the filly is born at dawn on June 21st ~ the summer solstice. She makes some odd comments before going on her way. There is a lot of interest in this “backyard” foal.
Meagan receives an intriguing invitation for her and a guardian to luncheon at a mansion nearby. The mysterious hostess is Mrs. Bridgestone, the strange old lady who had come to see Promise. The reason for her interest becomes clear as she reveals that she believes Promise to be one of the legendary “Great Horses.” These horses are those who were prominent in history, making their own marks along with humans and gods. Meagan believes Mrs. Bridgestone and wonders about the warning she gives her to not ride Promise. She feels this could bring darkness according to a hundred year old letter and verse written by the beloved horseman Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce :
A hundred years hence on this westmost shore,
The Great Horse comes to men once more.
History lights the future’s course,
With lessons learned from the Horse;
So born of loss and mother’s grief,
The Great Horse takes a might leap.
Eclipsed by shadow, the golden spark
Shall wing her rider into the dark.
Meagan’s mother Jennifer doesn’t believe the legend, even though almost every line seems to be referring to Promise. Jennifer won’t let Meagan see Mrs. Bridgestone after the visit because she thinks the old lady is crazy. I won’t go too much into detail as to what occurs next, but Promise and Meagan start on a journey where they visit other ‘Great Horses’ and make their own mark on the past of both humans and equines.
The author is obviously a horseman himself. He writes about horses, their care and behaviour with the authority of one who has lived with them. His writing is very clear and very engaging. I saw myself in Meagan as I was one of those kids who would spend 10 hours cleaning the barn before I’d spend 1 hour helping in the house. (I’m still that way I’m afraid.) She is an endearing and very likable guide on this horseback ride through time.
History, fantasy, myth, adventure and proper equine care all shine brightly in this first book in the trilogy. Royce weaves all of these elements together beautifully and young readers probably won’t even notice that they are learning about history and horse care while on this great ride back through time. I learned quite a bit myself and I grew up on a horse ranch with horses always in my life. This was a “can’t put down” book for me.
There is a very small bit of violence (as there always is when war is involved) but I HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone over about 10 or 11. Especially horselovers or adventurers. Young horsemen and horsewomen will see themselves as I did in the bond that is shared by Meagan and Promise and that which Jennifer had shared with Moose ~ Promise’s dam. (Dam is what the mare is called when she gives birth or foals.)
This is definitely a book that adults and kids can both read and discuss. There is a thorough glossary in the back that would be an extremely useful tool for all. On the learning side, I think this would be a fantastic series for riding instructors and first time horse owners as well. For the adventure and fantasy lovers, some other readers have compared this to an equine version of the “Harry Potter” series. It’s a fun and engrossing story that has just begun and none of us will want to end!