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Blackwatch Stables #1

The Secret of Blackwatch

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Maggie has always wanted a pony, but with the recent death of her mother those dreams had been put on hold. Her dream comes true when her father surprises her with a trip into the mysterious world of Blackwatch Stables. Lead by the scrupulous Ms. Cavalieri, Maggie learns that owning a pony is a bit different than she imagined. Guided by the other girls at the barn, she learns that caring for her pony, Bella, is hard but rewarding work. As her adventures at Blackwatch Stable begin, she and Bella quickly develop a magical relationship full of love and trust that carry them through phenomenal life changing events.

164 pages, Paperback

First published December 6, 2013

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About the author

Amber Cavalier Spiler

4 books7 followers
Amber Spiler began her equestrian career at age 5 in the horse country of Ocala, Fla. Inspired and supported by her mother, Trish Cavalier, she began working with Mary Rivers where she developed extensive knowledge that covered many breeds and styles of riding. “She was my idol and second mom. She was one of the most important role models in my life.” Amber earned the title of National Champion Equitation rider in the Paso Fino breed as well as four other national championships and several regional and state championships. Life took her away from horses for 20 years. As life allowed, Amber rekindled her passion while watching her daughters, Bella and Lily, learn to ride and experience the excitement that had consumed her as a young girl. Then she found Toby, her current horse, through CANTER Mid-Atlantic (an organization that places thoroughbreds into good homes when their racing career ends). “Toby helped me find my soul again!” It is with this enthusiasm for horses that Amber decided to pen Blackwatch Stables Series, weaving her own experiences into this delightful story for the tween and adult audience.

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5 stars
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4 (23%)
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2 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Cheryl.
Author 8 books27 followers
March 3, 2014
I read this to see if it was suitable for a fifth grade girl. It was.

The heroine is eleven, and she's lost her mom. Since she enjoyed riding with her mother, her dad decides to give her lessons at Blackwatch Stables.

Turns out there's more to Blackwatch Stables than outsiders see. This story of young girls and ponies is also about magic. The magic that happens when a girl finds "her" horse. And the magic that Blackwatch Stables hides that leads to a confrontation between good and evil.

Nice read.
Profile Image for Taylor.
4 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2013
LOVE THE FIRST BOOK IN THIS NEW SERIES! Maggi and Bella's magical relationship kept me on the edge of my seat!Perfect tween fantasy and the first in a series! Can't wait for book #2!
Profile Image for Josephine.
227 reviews27 followers
November 5, 2014
*** 3.5 stars ***

This is a delightful read for horse-lovers of all ages. Aimed at an audience between approximately 8 to 12 years of age, it begins with 11-year-old Maggie and her father as they try to pick up the pieces shortly after her mother’s death. When her father takes her to Blackwatch Stables for the first time, her mother’s love of riding becomes hers as well. As Maggie learns how to care for her pony and makes friends with the other riders, she discovers that the history of Blackwatch is intricately entwined with her family’s history. All is not as it seems, and Maggie finds herself thrown into a struggle that tests the strength of her newly discovered gifts and friendships. The magic happens when Maggie forms an unexpected bond with her new pony, Bella, whom Maggie found herself rescuing as she was shopping for a pony. As it turns out, destiny stepped in and so begins Maggie’s adventures as she discovers who her mother really was and Maggie’s own hidden talents.

We are introduced to Maggie and her father as they struggle through everyday life without their beloved mother and wife. Revealing these characters and their relationship with each other through this difficult stage of life was well done by the author as it sets up for the life-changing events about to take place. We have a quick but stable foundation from which to take off when the craziness starts.

The pacing picks up pretty quickly in the second half of the book and is a fun read. My only quibbles are some minor inconsistencies and the lack of depth of some of the characters’ relationships. Since I believe this is the start of a series, I will give the author the benefit of the doubt that the latter issue will resolve itself later.

Overall, a quick and fun read for animal lovers, I think, and not only for equestrian fans. Looking forward to see how Maggie’s world changes with more magic and adventure awaiting her.

Received ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Brittney.
Author 20 books339 followers
April 23, 2014
Perfect middle-grade Pony novel! If I had a daughter, she'd be all over this book ... I would say "The Secret of Blackwatch (Blackwatch Stables, #1)" is perfect for middle-grade girls ranging from 8-12 years (but I also enjoyed it). :)

Very fun concept combining the love of horses with the mystery of magic! My favorite parts include the action scenes -- especially the battle scene at the end. And, of course, I love the horse-talk and the bond between the girls and their ponies. Looking forward to seeing how this story evolves in future novels.

If you enjoy Equine-Fiction, check out my "Horse-Books" Review Blog at: http://brittneyjoybooks.sqsp.com/jour...
Profile Image for Kathryn (Dragon Bite Books).
478 reviews30 followers
January 13, 2015
This review was first published on my blog, Nine Pages.

I won a copy of The Secret of Blackwatch through Goodreads' giveaways.


Amber Cavalier Spiler understands the deep bond that can form between human and horse. In her new middle-grade series, Blackwatch Stables, the girls of Blackwatch can hear their horses’ voices in their heads. The girls of Blackwatch are descendents of families that have unusually deep bonds with the spirits of particular horses. The spirits of those horses always find their girls. The girls of Blackwatch are one of several stables whose riders have this unique bond with their horses. Then there is at least one rogue stable. When the heart of a rider with this bond to his horse turns cruel and hard, so does the horse, and these horses become dragons. I love the concept of horses with a connection to cruel riders becoming dragons. It explains so much of dragon-rider literature. First, that dragons can be ridden, also the nearness of many of these tales to “horse stories” (see Anne McCaffrey or Chris Paolini and compare to Walter Farley or Marguerite Henry, though admittedly the dragons in these tales can often be ridden for good), and last the question that I came across on the Internet: “Why are the bad guys’ horses always menacing and demonic too?”

The first book in the series, The Secret of Blackwatch, did not delve into the sort of depth that I would have liked either in creating rounded characters or explaining the magic with which the story is infused.

This book started a bit slowly. The protagonist, Maggie, has lost her mother, and her dad, wanting to see his daughter smile again, decides to give her both lessons and a pony. At auction, a dirty gray belligerently insists on Maggie’s attention in the pen. This is the pony that Maggie sends to Blackwatch. Maggie spends a lot of time learning the finicky rules of Ms. Cavalieri’s stable before the magic begins. Ms. Cavalieri runs her stable as a military encampment at war rather than a stable—which thanks to the fantastical elements of this story, it is. I attended a stable that was run more like summer camp year round except that we had fewer hands year round and were more responsible for mucking fields in the other seasons. Helmets were insisted upon as they should always be, but while proper riding boots and pants or chaps were recommended, we could get away with jeans and sneakers on occasion. Braids, jackets, shirts (not a uniform but just a button down with a high collar), and spotless ponies were for show days only. Tall boots were never worn. The girls of Blackwatch as consequence remind me of the girls who always looked down their noses at our stable, and so I think that I was prejudiced against them from the get-go, the girls didn’t really become rounded enough to earn reprieves. I’m intrigued more by the adult riders, who seem now to have more secrets. I fear Spiler fell victim as so many have done to the perils of school stories: a necessarily huge cast overwhelming of the author and making it difficult to give any character—let alone all of the characters—depth.

The dragon-riders who have retreated to a hollow mountain fortress are at war with the stables that still have horses instead of dragons. The reasons for this war are not explained, though I suspect that they are personal and have more to do with jealousy and broken hearts than any gainful objective. It is implied that Maggie’s mother and a parent of each of the girls in the stable have been killed in this war. Maggie and her friend Katie discover the parents’ horses penned in the mountain. Maggie is able to communicate with her mother’s horse, who presumably shares a soul with Maggie’s horse Bella. How this soul is passed is not explained. The horses are not of the same breed, but look similar, sharing markings and coloring. I would have assumed the soul would pass on death and was very surprised when Maggie discovered her mother’s horse alive.

Stylistically, at times, it was evident that this is both Spiler’s first novel and one that was self-published. The protagonist’s physical description and back-story were shoved mercilessly into the beginning and not worked into the text. Physical details were often not mentioned a second time, making them forgettable, and unsurprisingly, the horses were better described than the people. Spiler kept Maggie at a distance increased greatly by the use of Maggie’s father name, a detail that, though Maggie would obviously know, she would not likely use in thinking or speaking about him. Though Maggie was very clearly the only POV character and it was supposed to be Maggie’s story, I felt as if I never got to know Maggie. The narration seemed to brushed light fingers over “her gray matter but never took me into the squishy parts” as I just explained to a friend.

Through all of these rather common stumbles, I thought that the concepts of The Secret of Blackwatch were all good ones if I’d have liked them to be a bit better explained and executed. I hope future books will expound upon and make clear the purposes of this war. I hope we will learn more about the workings of this universe and magic.
1,148 reviews25 followers
February 18, 2014
The bond between horse & rider is magical!

Do you dream of owning your own pony? Do you love Harry Potter and his magical world, in which he goes on adventures with best friends Ron & Hermione facing all kinds of deadly foe?

This sensational, spellbinding new series cleverly combines fantasy; including medieval, mythology and magic within a thoroughly contemporary world. Reminiscent of “The Saddle Club” Blackwatch Stables is a barn filled with pony-mad girls and boys, who while learning to ride and competing in shows experience the most exciting adventures… This Young Adult / Tween story highlights the hardships of loosing those who you love {as with the death of Maggie’s mother}, as well as encapsulating the bond between horse (or pony) and human.

Horses are magical creatures. That strong {almost surreal} bond we have with them, connection and understanding is at times overwhelming. I felt the author’s intent at relaying this to her readers - - in a way almost ‘Natural Horsemanship’ {or whispering}, without preaching about principles, as it was more of an undertone/ nuance to the book. Profoundly poignant, moving and touching this sincere story speaks to the heart and reaches out to all who love and appreciate the horse.

“The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears”
- Arabian Proverb

Rich details {such as the Plaid for instance} help to encapsulate the atmosphere, smells and visual image of the magical Blackwatch Barn. Maggie’s friendship with Katie and her 14 hands black pony Lily is endearing, and it brought fond nostalgic memories of when I was younger and similarly riding at a stables with other likeminded youngsters. Bella {aka. Show name Bella Tempesta / Beautiful storm} is a gorgeous pony who seems as ‘real’ as the main characters, with individualistic traits and quirks that make her so memorable.

The TWIST in the tale is so shockingly unexpected and inspired that I gasped in awe!!

Ideal for all young riders and those owning their first pony, included in this delightful story are many useful facts and tips about correct horse management & care. Amber C Spiler deftly interweaves amid the thrilling tale basic horsemanship and touches upon competing, so as to emphasize how owning a pony is a commitment and serious undertaking that’s hard.

Tonight I shall be dreaming of Magic and Horses and Dragons…
I am so impressed by this fantastic first instalment in what I predict will be an epic series.
4 reviews
December 21, 2013
I read this book in one sitting....couldn't put it down! Can't wait to read the next one and see what happens to Maggie and Bella next? Will she rescue Chloe? Great book for Adults and Tweens! I got this book for all my grandchildren and neighbors children!
Profile Image for Arielle Sabina.
2 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2014
Great book for anyone, young or old, who loves horses. Spiler attempts to capture the true essence of the human-horse relationship through a magical adventure.
Profile Image for Grumpy72.
72 reviews2 followers
November 9, 2014
Loved it! Excellent read! Easy to get drawn in. Definitely passing this one on to my daughters!!
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews

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