Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1) excerpt: The Tournament Knight

ECLIPSED BY SHADOW | 'The Legend of the Great Horse' trilogy book cover (90x135px)

This excerpt is from Eclipsed by Shadow, Book #1 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy, an adventure through history―on horseback.

The scene is set in 1240, Eastern Europe, when Meagan first discovers she is riding with the Mongolian army of Genghis Khan.

“The great art of riding,” the Knight began in a loud voice,
waving his right hand as he spoke “is to keep…”
Here the sentence ended as suddenly as it began,
as the Knight fell heavily on top of his head
exactly in the path where Alice was walking.

– Lewis Carrol (1832-98) Through the Looking Glass

Qualifying rounds took place in the outer fields, where the tilting courts took all comers. It was Henryk’s chance, and Meagan did everything she could to help. Chouchou had never been sleeker and his old saddle had been soaped and oiled into new life. Looking at Henryk sitting on Chouchou, his blond head sticking out from borrowed chain mail that hung in loops, Meagan felt the glow of a horse show mother.
Knight Henryk and his mount Chouchou
“Here, Henryk,” she said, handing up his shield. “And remember to keep your heels down. That’s why you keep losing your stirrups.” She took a dilapidated lance with peeling paint from where it leaned against a tree.

“Merci, Meagan.” Henryk adjusted the lance so it stood straight in the air, balanced on its stirrup rest.

There was only one thing left to do, and Meagan tried once more to persuade Henryk against it. “Do we have to, Henryk? It just seems so … well, stupid.”

“Tak! Meagan, please the foldblind.”

Meagan looked out over the fields filled with blindfolded horses. There was no barrier between the contestants as there would be in later years of the joust. At this point in history, two knights simply rode their blindfolded mounts together with all possible speed.

“It is just so dangerous, Henryk.” Chouchou scratched his massive head against Meagan as she tied the blindfold over his eyes. “It looks silly, too.”

Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of the trilogy) won national awards including the Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.



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December 3rd – Book #3: INTO THE DARK to be published in paperback

Into the Dark (bookcover)

The final volume of the award-winning trilogy, The Legend of the Great Horse, is being released in paperback on December 3, 2013.

Into the Dark brings the historical adventure to triumphant conclusion as hoofbeats thunder into the modern age. The new paperback version is a revised 2nd edition.

The book will be available through bookstores and major online booksellers in the US, and released to international distribution in 2014.

The Bright Side of the Dark Ages: Stirrups!

“It is surprising that horsemen took 1,500 years to think up something so simple. One is reluctantly driven to the distasteful conclusion that we are not really a very bright set of people.”–Charles Chenevix-Trench (1914-2003), A History of Horsemanship


0579_haniwa-horse_c550AD_225pxOne positive thing about the Dark Ages was that horseback ‘barbarians’ invaded, pillaged, and burned using a new development that today we call stirrups–an innovation that revolutionized cavalry and greatly eased saddle-soreness.

Stirrups increased cavalry’s effectiveness against infantry and allowed for the creation of new heavy cavalry with lances. Horses could be ridden faster and for longer distances: the gallop is easier for the animal if its rider stands in stirrups, and stirrups make trotting much more pleasant.

People had ridden in saddles for over a thousand years without stirrups, and the intellectual tone of the era makes it likely people would have gone another thousand without the bracing illustration of an arrow-spewing nomad bearing down at a fast gallop. The device was quickly copied and by 600 AD were spreading throughout Europe.

Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer: Into the Dark “a display of equine fireworks”

New review by Into the Dark, Book #3 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy, by Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer E.A. Lovitt:

E. A. Lovitt | Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer 5-Star Review


Book III of The Legend of the Great Horse concludes John Royce’s sweeping historical fantasy about horses and horsemanship with a display of equine fireworks that made it well worth the wait. The ending was satisfying on both a philosophical and emotional level. The author’s heroine, Meagan Roberts grows into a believable young woman, much of that growth (as with most of us) rooted in pain and sorrow. I was sorry to say good-bye to her and all of the Great Horses that accompanied her on her wild journey through time.

Much of Into the Dark takes place in Texas and Kentucky just as America’s brutal Civil War is heating up. When Royce takes time with his characters, as he did in this section, they are infused with life. When Meagan has to choose between her Great Horse and her new-found love, the reader will understand and share in that agonizing decision.

I was especially fond of the two 20th Century vignettes about horses that I already knew and loved: Man O’War and the British pony, Stroller who earned (along with his rider) a silver medal in the 1968 Olympics. The section on Man O’War reminded me very much of Walter Farley’s book about this great Thoroughbred, who was portrayed by both authors as a fiery, almost mythological beast that burned his way down the race track and into our dreams. On the other hand, the section on Stroller’s competition in the 1968 team jumping event almost broke my heart. The author draws on his own deep knowledge of equestrian sport and of the equine heart to give his readers an understanding of just what Stroller accomplished. It reminded me of the race caller’s description of the great Zenyatta as she finished first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: “This is one we’ll never forget!”

Good-bye, Meagan. This is one we’ll never forget.

» See review on Amazon

graphic image of knight chesspieceInto the Dark is the 3rd book of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy, an award winning time-travel adventure through history—on horseback! The story follows the journey of a modern horsewoman lost in the distant past.

The trilogy books have won multiple national awards including the 2009 Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the 2010 Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.

Further information about this unique ‘creative non-fiction’ novel can be found at