The accomplished author of many YA novels, including the Flambards trilogy, spins a dramatic tale in which harrowing errors of judgment are repeatedly followed by unexpected joy as well as grief. Darkling is a thoroughbred bought by chronically feckless Granpa, who acquires the apparently worthless foal for Jenny with his gambling earnings. Darkling is terrified by everything; moreover, they've nowhere to keep him. Granpa stays in a decrepit trailer near the rundown cottage where Jenny lives with her wrathful mother and long-disabled dad. Desperate, Jenny is reprieved from going with Darkling to a third-rate trainer when her best friend's father takes them both on in his fine stable. The impossible but spirited horse has just begun to realize his promise when Granpa gambles his performance in a poignant private race--and loses. This time Mum saves Jenny's interest in Darkling by a mysterious intervention linked to a long-ago affair--and some unexpected relationships with their landlord's two sons, with whom Jenny is involved in a potentially tragic triangle. Peyton gets off to a slow start before filling her story with intricately linked events that are saved from melodrama by her splendidly individual, vivid characterizations. Wily, misguided Granpa is a charmer; Jenny is a believable mix of intelligence, conscience, and loyalty--too modest to suspect the affection she inspires. Minor characters are briskly but subtly drawn. A richly satisfying novel.