Overall, an exciting adventure.

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THE HORSE ROAD

The first of a projected trio of horse-centered historical novels takes readers to a central Asia of some 2,000 years ago.

To 14-year-old Kallisto's wealthy trader father, she is a plump peach, soft and lovely; to her horse-trainer mother, a former slave, she is a warrior yet unproven. Kalli, shy and stammering everywhere but on a horse, begins to prove herself when she and her friend Batu catch a glimpse over a mountainside of thousands of Middle Kingdom warriors preparing to attack their town. Servants herd the family's elite horses to safety inside the walls, but Kalli herself barters for their food and water, shields them and cares for them; when her own mare, Swan, is stolen, she dons armor and weapons and rides to the rescue. In the end, she wins Swan not in battle, but through shrewd bargaining—the true daughter of both her parents. Harrison's story is based upon a historical battle in 102 B.C. between soldiers of Chinese emperor Wu-Ti and inhabitants of the city of Ferghana. The emperor wanted the golden-hued Persian horses, ancestors of today's Akhal-Teke breed; the siege ended diplomatically with the opening of the famous Silk Road. Harrison's impressive research brings this relatively unknown era to life; her characters ring true, and Kallisto's equestrian abilities, while impressive, are fully credible. The opening chapters, however, are both confusing and chaotic, with few cues to orient young readers to time and place.

Overall, an exciting adventure. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-846-5

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction.

PROMISE THE NIGHT

MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010).

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person—let alone woman—to fly a plane west from Europe to America.

Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AT THE PALACE OF MARIE ANTOINETTE

From the Time-Traveling Fashionista series , Vol. 2

Middle school girls obsessed with fashion will find an entertaining, painless history lesson in this light romp.

Louise, 12, envies her best friend, who is becoming an actual teenager. Worse, her dad has suddenly lost his job, so Louise won’t be going on her much-anticipated trip to France with her classmates. She consoles herself by indulging in her obsession, vintage fashion, at the exclusive traveling vintage-clothing store that has sent her another exclusive invitation. The last time she visited the peripatetic store, she wound up traveling back in time to the Titanic, and she wonders if she can take another trip. Of course she can, winding up in the court of 14-year-old Princess Marie Antoinette just after her marriage to Prince Louis. Louise finds herself in the persona of a Duchess called Gabrielle. The amazing excesses of the court astonish her, as, of course, does the fashion. However, she also learns about the appalling conditions of the people of France and tries to awaken Marie Antoinette to their misery. She remembers the lecture her history teacher gave her class about the French Revolution, but can’t recall just when it happened. Is Louise herself in personal danger? Turetsky delivers her enjoyable history lesson through the eyes of a girl who knows every major and minor fashion designer, a character sure to appeal to her target audience, as will the time-traveling theme. Appealing illustrations aid readers’ imaginations. 

Good fun. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-10538-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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