Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Book Review: different worlds

I know what you're thinking - you're expecting a post about cowboys who become dressage riders, or draft horses who visit the circus. Nope, sorry.

This week you get fantasy. Not talking horses, either, but good, solid, real horse-type horses. I appreciate an author who can write animals well without making them into people. (Sure, 101 Dalmations was a great book, but was anyone else really disturbed by Disney's real-life version where they CGI'd the dog's mouths so that they talked?)

Janny Wurts writes well (not to mention copiously, and at length!), and a few of her series contain well-written animals in minor supporting roles. Then there's this week's book, where the survival of the main characters (and the fate of a kingdom) depends on the realiability, training and conditioning of six horses.

To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts
A missing princess and a handful of strange deaths bring together two men, a mysterious foreigner and a rigidly focused captain of the royal guard. Caught in a vise of politics and diabolical plotting, the two men must decide whether to trust enough to stand together and face a nameless horror.

Gut-wrenching and powerful, this stand-alone novel drags the reader along on a desperate plunge to outrace the minions of hell itself. Human trust alone isn't enough - if the princess and her lone protector can't survive the treacherous rift known as Hell's Chasm, the kingdom will be irrevocably lost.

Their one chance at successful passage through the deadly warren rests on the sturdy shoulders of three teams of horses hand-picked and trained to compete in the kingdom's version of the Olympic horse trials. With shapeshifting demons hot on their heels, the terrain and its denizens, not to mention time, stacked against them, they can only go forward or die. (Possibly both). Failure means more than a kingdom will fall, but even success may cost some, or all, their lives.
I won't lie to you, not all the horses survive, and not all of them die nicely, which is awful. But the horses themselves are written wonderfully, and if you like a good epic fantasy adventure, and you haven't ever read any of Wurts books, I'd encourage you to give this one a try.

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