Black Horses for the King
by Anne McCaffrey

Three covers from Anne McCaffrey's 'Black Horses for the King'

Anne McCaffrey's Black Horses for the King

Book review by Shannon Duncan

Ages 12+

The scifi legend takes on King Arthur

If I had known at first that this was another story about King Arthur, I probably wouldn't have read it.

I thought that the generations of Arthurian authors had sucked the legends dry, but I was wrong. By the time I noticed the small heading on the front cover that reads, “The story of King Arthur as it has never been told before...” I was more than ready to agree.

Black Horses For The King was written by the first woman ever to have won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards: Anne McCaffrey. Some people thought that she was the most popular author of fantasy in her day.

Most of Anne McCaffrey's books were written for young adults, but Black Horses is one of her three novels for children. It was first published in 1995.

Summary - Black Horses for the King

The day that young Galwyn Varianus met the Companions and their noble leader, Lord Artos, the course of his life was changed. Together they go on a quest for mighty horses, to mount the entire British army, ready to ride out against a formidable new enemy.

The precious horses must be transported over land and sea, and they have to be kept in perfect condition. Galwyn proves to be invaluable, although he feels unworthy of the praise he receives.

When they finally reach Britain, the Companions realise that the horses are not safe yet. New problems and new dangers stand in their path.

Galwyn and many others work hard to realise Lord Artos' dream, but will their efforts be enough? Will they be in time?

Review - Black Horses for the King

McCaffrey's King Arthur story is unique. Seen through the eyes of Galwyn, you get a glimpse of ancient Britain as it may have been: a place where legends walk the earth along with Romans, Celts and Britons, and myth seems as real as history.

Arthur, still known as Lord Artos, is portrayed as a noble and gracious man. He is not only a warrior, but a ruler who is genuinely concerned about the well-being of his subjects. The story is rich, full of adventure and fast-paced.

The book is full of horse lore, but even with a limited knowledge of these creatures, anyone can understand it.

The skilful way in which horses are woven into the rest of the story means that even people who are not horse-lovers can enjoy the book.

The details about horses and farriery are accurate, having been checked by two qualified people.

Even the layout of the book is unusual. Although it is a little over two hundred pages long, it is not divided into chapters, but rather into five parts.

The small details interspersed in the text, as well as the typeface used give the book the feel of an ancient illuminated manuscript.

Black Horses For The King is a fascinating book and would probably be enjoyed most by children between twelve and fourteen years old, or by anyone who loves the tales of King Arthur. I for one will never be able to think of the legend in the same way again.

More of Shannon's reviews.

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