Horse Warrior by Meredith Jaffé
Horse Warrior is the first in a series of books about eleven-year-old Maia, daughter of the Lord of Avenal. A typically spunky heroine, she loves riding her pony Ziggy and dreams of entering the tournament in which her brother, Willem, is allowed to compete. Maia is too young and she’s a girl. Girls should dress in pretty clothes, not ride horses – even when they are as good at horseriding as Maia is. But everything changes when Willem is wounded, her father poisoned, and Maia realises that the enemy might be closer to home than anyone thinks. Maia must escape quickly, and the mysterious boy Raven and his horse Blackie will be her guides. How will she protect her father and her once-peaceful kingdom? The answer seems to lie over the mountains, in the place she was always forbidden to go.
This first engaging instalment sets the scene for the adventures that will inevitably come next. It hints at Avenal’s many secrets, but reveals few. Clearly, this book is intended to entice readers into the story – and we can only hope that the answers will soon be revealed! Maia meets a cast of characters along her journey, such as the witch-healer Sarahan and the stablehand turned soldier, Achaius. Maia’s first foray beyond the sheltered existence of her childhood brings with it a quest for identity. The reader is invited to take this journey and discover more about Maia and the world in which she lives at the same time as she does herself. Maia’s name means ‘brave warrior’, indicating that her journey will reveal her own strength.
Horse Warrior is Jaffé’s first book for children. As an easy to read chapter book, it would be a great book for ages 8-13.
The horse-lover and the fantasy-lover will enjoy this.
Reviewer: Susannah Whaley
Harbour Publishing House, RRP $14.99