Spain in 1936 is the setting for an old-fashioned, carefully woven, but slow-moving and morose adventure novel whose appeal to contemporary youngsters is doubtful. Eleven-year-old Eduardo is stuck on his rich father's country estate as punishment for poor grades when he would rather be vacationing as usual at the seaside with his chic mother. Then his father fails to return from an overnight business trip, and the caretaker and his wife are inexplicably killed by marauders. In the company of Gaviota, an old, pampered, once-regal showhorse, Eduardo sets out to find an uncle--and pitches into a series of experiences that can only be described as glumly picaresque. Tricked by gypsies, befriended by a peasant woman and later by an innkeeper, threatened by villagers and soldiers alike, he is finally reunited with his mother; and in her refined presence his remarkable, earthy journey rapidly fades. Eduardo doesn't really understand what happened, and neither does the reader.