From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Orphaned Syeira, about 12, has grown up in the royal stables of the Hayselean kingdom and developed a talent for working with horses. She especially admires three wild horses just captured by the king's handlers: a blue roan mare, so called for the white hairs mixed through her blue-black coat, and her two foals. When the evil lord of a neighboring kingdom steals the foals, Syeira frees the mare and joins her quest to find her young. The relationship between Arwin and the girl deepens until Syeira has become like another child to the blue roan. Never anthropomorphized, the horses communicate with humans wordlessly, through a highly original language of smells and scent pictures. Lots of olfactory details enrich the well-realized, preindustrial setting. The story is overstuffed with interesting characters and situations, including an herbalist addicted to a memory-enhancing plant, hot-air balloons used as war engines, winged horses, a murderous small bird turned third-rate artist–and that's not even the half of it. Some of these great ideas sidetrack rather than enhance the plot, and the generally lyrical writing style breaks down in places, but overall this is an enjoyable fantasy from a new writer to be watched.–Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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Gr. 5-8. Balms and potions abound in this first novel, among them Medic Synonyma, a tincture that causes a "treeful of synonyms to bloom in [the] mind." There is certainly a bountiful harvest of words to be enjoyed in Findlay's prose, which invites readers to visualize the "confetti meander" of butterflies in flight or the "lemon-bright" glow of a sunny day. Such images enhance his vision of a rustic fantasy world where horses of rare, ancient stock can communicate with certain highly sensitive humans. It is such a bond that sends Syeira, a preteen orphan girl, on a dangerous quest to reunite a mare with her colts, cruelly stolen by a warmongering ruler. Along the way, Syeira encounters a series of eccentric characters whose assistance helps her both free the colts and, inadvertently, galvanize a civil war. Although Findlay's lingering affection for dense description, symbolism, and stories within stories may put off some readers, many fantasy devotees will relish his richly embroidered imaginings. Try this on fans of Mary Hoffman's equestrian fantasy, Stravaganza: City of Stars
(2002). Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved