A horse named Hero inspires his young owner to heroics in this suspenseful coming-of-age novel.
When British troops escape from Dunkirk, instead of coming home, the widowed father of Dodo and her 8-year-old brother, Wolfie, is listed as missing, and the children are evacuated to the countryside. When their father is found but court-martialed for desertion, the children console themselves by remembering his World War I cavalry heroics; the locals aren’t as forgiving, and the children take refuge with an eccentric clergyman and his adult daughter, who raises ponies. Wolfie’s discovery of an orphaned foal becomes a lifeline to his maligned father; he names it Hero, and the letters his father writes him about earning a horse’s trust become their primary relationship. The war years pass. Hero grows and is trained under saddle; he proves his worth in a desperate slog through bog lands that claims the life of Dodo’s horse. Then Hero disappears. Angus’ compelling writing and forceful plot mesh well to create a story that’s more thriller than historical fiction. The focus of the third-person narration shifts between Dodo and Wolfie, which causes some confusion, and Dodo’s character is not as well-drawn as Wolfie’s. Some of the wartime details aren’t quite right, but they don’t hinder the story and will likely pass unnoticed.
Adventure, a horse, faithfulness and truth—an arresting combination. (Historical fiction. 10-14)