Mar 24, 12
Read from October 27 to 30, 2011
This is a beautiful, spare, intelligent, thoughtful gem of a book: I loved it. There's so much good, innovative YA fiction coming out just now and this is no exception. Set on a mythical island off the mainland (which is probably England, but may be Ireland), the book describes the paths of two young people: Puck and Sean, who will ride in the Scorpio races for the wealth of the winning prize.
So far, so unoriginal, but the horses they can ride are the water-horses, beasts of legend who rise out of the surf on the island, carnivorous equids who will kill and eat a man as soon as look at him, who are virtually untamable, but can be held with charms and whispered magics, who are like riding the wind if you can mount them, but never less than deadly.
Sean has won the race four times, but must win it again if he is to have any chance of keeping his beloved Corr, the rust red capail uisce that is his beloved. Sean is said to have 'one foot in the sea' and is one of the few who can really speak to the horses. He words for a local horse-trainer and land owner, whose son is his nemesis.
Puck's parents were both killed by the capaille uisce (plural is spelled and said differently to the singular) and she must ride and win if she is to keep the house she and her two brothers lived in. Her life is one of poverty and hardship, but she has Dove, the island pony, who can legally enter the race - tho' neither a woman, nor a non-water horse has ever done so. Her odds are set at 45:1 against.
This could sound trite, but the writing is lovely, and clearly written by someone who truly knows horses; the need to get them soft and round, the ways of making them fit, the ways of stopping one that is bolting - or of baling out if needs be. And the author also clearly loves the sea. The two together - the wild water horses and the sea and the life on the island make this a truly magical, wonderful book - definitely a very good read.