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Reins you in from page one!
on May 24, 2007
Thirteen-year-old uber-smarty, Darby Carter, has loved horses for as long as she can remember. Unfortunately, she has never had the opportunity to actually ride one, but their beauty alone gives her enough pleasure to keep her happy. Still, since her brief stay in Nevada, volunteering alongside Samantha "Sam" Forster at Dream Catcher Wild Horse Camp, Darby can't get back into the Pacific Pinnacles, California comfort zone she had grown accustomed to after so many years. The fact that Darby was adopted by a beautiful little wild filly during her time in Nevada doesn't make things any easier. Sure, Darby wants nothing more than to stay by her struggling actress mother's side in their rinky-dink apartment, but just the thought of the little filly makes Darby's heart flutter. When her mother is offered a role of a lifetime in Tahiti, she knows that Darby can't accompany her, so Darby is given an ultimatum: move in with her father and his family above a local pizzeria for a few months, or fly to Hawaii to stay on Darby's estranged grandfather's Wild Horse Island. The choice is easy. Even though Darby has never met her grandfather - Jonah - she can't turn down an opportunity to spend her days smelling sweet flowers, and lounging about with horses of all shapes and sizes underneath the bright Hawaiian sun. The fact that her grandfather has officially adopted the wild filly, and is having her sent to Wild Horse Island, where Darby will have the chance to work alongside her, and, hopefully, make her tame only makes Darby more excited. That excitement, however, quickly disappears the moment that Darby steps off the plane and meets her grandfather. For once, she is able to understand why her mother kept the two of them separated for so long. Jonah is a gruff man who sympathizes with no one. While he's a talented hand when it comes to horses, Darby can't help but feel that he's unsympathetic, and, quite possibly, slightly uncaring. But Jonah is the least of her problems. The little filly has arrived on the shores of Hawaii, but she's not happy with her new home. Gone are the plains of the West that she's so used to galloping along. Now she must obey rules, and be kept inside a pen. Darby can't stand to see her beloved filly so depressed and angry, but she knows that it's for the best. She believes that she'll be able to tame the wild filly, and make her a spirited, lovable, ride-worthy horse. Jonah, on the other hand, seems to have no hope in the filly. In his opinion, the little filly is useless, and doesn't show the signs of a horse who will ever trust a human again. His lack of faith only encourages Darby to pursue training with the filly even more. After all, she hasn't lost faith in the horse whom she laid down next to in the snow back in Nevada; and now it's up to her to restore faith in Jonah, and show him that the filly has the chance to be the best horse ever, if only she's given a little time, patience, and caring.
I read a few of Terri Farley's PHANTOM STALLION novels, but entered the series late, and felt that I could never catch up with the newest revelations being conveyed in each installment. So when I learned that Farley was releasing a new series, I knew that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to quench my thirst for equine fiction. I was not disappointed. Darby Carter is an interesting protagonist. Her bookish ways peg her as being studious, and nothing more. Yet her love and fascination with horses is a nice contrast, that illustrates her varying interests. Darby's thirst for knowledge of everything around her - from the Hawaiian language, to how to saddle a horse, and even the names of the varying plantations and islands - is such a refreshing thing to see. It's as if she's seeing the world for the first time, through infant eyes, which makes her excitement contagious. The fact that Farley includes a small dictionary that features Hawaiian words and their meanings gives readers the chance to learn new things right alongside Darby, making her feel more like a companion, a friend, than a character in a fiction novel. Farley's descriptions of island life are breathtaking. She manages to make the smells and the sounds come to life on every page; while, at the same time, bringing the reader up-close-and-personal with true island living, and the amount of work that takes place everyday on a horse ranch. Darby's oft-times tumultuous relationship with Jonah, as well as Jonah's foster son, Cade, adds conflict to the story, which is actually a nice addition, as we have the opportunity to see how far Darby has come throughout the course of THE HORSE CHARMER, learning to stand up for herself, and actually find the confidence to speak her mind when she feels it is necessary to do so. Darby starts off as a meek character, but, through hard work, she begins to grow, inch by inch, into a responsible horsewoman, whose determination, intelligence, and maturity levels are at an all-time high. Farley's inclusion of the filly's behavioral problems are wonderful, as they give the reader a chance to see how difficult taming a wild spirit truly is; while the brief mentions of Sam Forster - the star of the PHANTOM STALLION series - give die-hard readers the chance to re-visit an old friend, and help get settled into the new environment and characters found within the pages of THE HORSE CHARMER, and the spin-off series WILD HORSE ISLAND, in general. Farley's newest debut is delightful, and will keep readers coming back for more to see what else is in store for Darby and her newest acquisition. Reins you in from page one!