HORSES OF WAR by Duff Hart-Davis


Email this review


A deft hand with adventures in exotic places (Katmandu in The Heights of Rimring, 1981; a flooded mountain mine in Level Five, 1982), Hart-Davis here follows the trek of an English horse-trainer as he leads two prize stallions 600 miles to safety through the carnage of the early days of the Russian Revolution. Through flashbacks, the author reconstructs the early life of Englishman Joseph Clements: a runaway orphan who loves horses and is finally given stable work; a happy roustabout with a kind family of circus people; and at last an exerciser in a famous stud-farm, where occasionally royal horses are stabled. There's a racing career, then finally the big prize--in 1912 he's hired, from another post in Russia, by a distant cousin of the Tsar, to oversee the construction of a large thoroughbred stud farm, a lovely place beyond St. Petersburg. There, he fails in love with the Prince's daughter Katya, who returns his love. But in the family absence, the Bolshevik threat becomes a reality, and Clements knows that the farm and horses are doomed. Clements begins his terrible journey with two stallions through brutal weather and the slaughter of people and animals. He's rescued at one point by officers of the English RAF. Clements will load the stallions on their train, and--although a gentle man who'll do all he can for suffering animals--he'll take up a gun with his countrymen. Before the happy/tragic close, Joseph is reunited with Katya and leaves behind chaos, death--and love. Like all fictional versions of desperate journeys, the trek itself carries its own suspense, and, here, there are convincing, evocative views of old Russia and some solid horse-talk.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's