A thoroughbred racehorse tells his story in this middle-grade novel.
Dante’s Inferno has it all—a superior pedigree, striking looks and a comfortable life in an upscale racing barn. What he doesn’t have is the right attitude. He nearly dies at birth but is resuscitated with painful shots of adrenaline, leaving him with a deep distrust of pain-inflicting humans. While technically dead, Dante has an out-of-body experience, meeting his deceased grandfather, a legendary Triple Crown winner named Dante’s Paradiso, who tells him he needs to “conquer three great tests” but does not name them. Amateau writes a believable horse’–point-of-view narration, giving Dante a confident, even privileged voice as he relates, first, his failed racing career—despite numerous advantages and even more numerous expectations—and then his second career as a dressage/hunter/cross-country competitor in the Maury River Stables. Gradually—oh, so gradually—Dante learns humility, trust and love. The story has a clear arc and seems to end on a powerful note, but then…there are two more chapters. One describes Dante’s meeting with a decrepit Appaloosa (the eponymous Chancey from the first in the series), and in the other, Dante provides a brief history of the thoroughbred breed and its future. Both struggle to fit into the story.
Overall, compelling and skillfully written, but in this case, less would have been more. (Fiction. 8-13)