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Black Horses for the King (Magic Carpet Books) Paperback – August 1, 2008
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Anne McCaffrey is back with this precious, well-researched yarn that follows a Celtic lad in service to King Arthur. Set in fifth-century Britain, McCaffrey's first historical novel for young adults rejects a fantastical, Hollywood treatment of King Arthur in favor of realism and solid storytelling. Take away the Round Table and the usual knights-in-shining-armor hoo-hah, and you're left with an engaging, endearing chapter from the life of Artos, Comes Britannorum, a young war leader in search of horses strong enough to carry his armored warriors into battle against the savage Saxons.
The story is told through the eyes of polite, earnest young do-gooder Galwyn Varianus, who has fled the service of his cruel, brutish, seafaring uncle to take up with the charismatic Artos. Galwyn quickly proves his value with his affinity for languages and horses, and he accompanies Artos and the Companions (proto-Knights of the Round Table) as they execute their plan: acquiring and then breeding a handful of fabled Libyans, the horses of the book's title, and then mastering and disseminating the knowledge of horseshoe-making. The action revolves around Galwyn's role in this plan and never rises above the pace of, say, an after-school special. But rich details, McCaffrey's obvious love of the subject matter, and involving characters go a long way to make up for the story's slow trot. (In particular, you'll find yourself waiting eagerly for the comeuppance of one character, a sneering rider named Iswy, Goofus to Galwyn's Gallant.) --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From Publishers Weekly
McCaffrey steps out of her niche as a Hugo and Nebula award-winning fantasy writer to tackle her first historical novel for young adults, retelling the Arthurian legend-minus the Round Table, Guinevere and Merlin-through the eyes of Galwyn Varianus. A Roman Celtic youth, Galwyn helps the future king of Britain, known here as Lord Artos, acquire the legendary Black Horses of his legions. The author's tender reverence for equine history (she raises horses in Ireland) makes for vivid descriptions of frightened steeds in the hold of a ship across the English Channel; it also allows an undue amount of horsey jargon. A teenage boy interested exclusively in horseshoes rings not quite true, yet the well-drawn story moves along at a compelling trot, climaxing in a battle in which horses help Lord Artos reclaim Britain for future mad cows and Englishmen. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
Top customer reviews
As far as plot, there is very little conflict. Galwyn has a few minor run-ins with a jealous stable-boy type which culminates in an anti-climatic fight over a few sentences at the end of the book. Nothing bad happens to Galwyn. Everyone loves him and he is given favor by Artos instantly despite being a young sailor boy on his uncle's ship. Galwyn is amazing with horses, riding, and blacksmithing. And despite never being taught to fight with a weapon, easily wins the fight with his "enemy". The lack of conflict throughout the book and Galwyn's perfection made for a boring read. Would also be better labeled a textbook on the history of horseshoes and early horse care than about King Arthur.