Hartslove by K M Grant
|Hartslove by K M Grant|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Something much darker than and superior to the usual, old-fashioned, children-and-their-racehorse adventure.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: September 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
1861, Epsom. A young lad, Garth, is at the start of the biggest horse race in the land, astride The One, an ungainly but lightning-fast three year old who had never been ridden until just months ago. At the side of the track, Garth's five sisters, and friends, are willing him on. How can this young jockey win the race, upon which the fate of their castle home and so much more depends? And what are we to learn after the prologue that sets all this out, that would make us want him to NOT win?
It takes a children's author with the talents of K M Grant to force me to write so much about character. She has an easy way with creating them, from the Maid who Talks in Capitalised Words, to the prime interest here, the children. While it takes perhaps a smidgen too much work to differentiate them at first, they all come fully-formed by the end. Garth was most interesting - while his siblings all have gentle, flowery names, he is no less fragile. But the focus of the book is Daisy, the part-disabled, feisty heroine who is determined to make sure the Hartslove home and fortune does not go down the dumper upon The One losing the race.
This would primarily be the fault of the father of the house, a hard-hearted alcoholic who gambles too much on buying this horse, and then doesn't take much part in its destiny. It would be great to get more inside his mind than we do (adults are seldom really met here), but what we see is dark enough, and as I say this is a rarefied, intelligent take on the children-with-a-prize-winning-animal saga story.
While it takes a modern twist on such an old-fashioned storyline, it has quite a divergent character itself. It could appear twee when the children dress up as ghosts to deter would-be buyers of their home, but it also gets dark when that story strand climaxes. There's the unlikely gothic benefactor the children hardly ever see, and Garth at his darkest really makes this more suited for the young teen market than any more juvenile audience.
So while Grant is on seemingly safe, comfortable territory when it comes to her story, her breadth, depth and class make this something nigh-on superlative. Without Garth around at the beginning it might be a girls' own read, but it is one of those teen novels adults can easily be impressed by, such is the style and intelligence on show. Quaintly reviving an old saw with a much sharper, modern edge, I can easily recommend this title.
I must thank the kind Quercus people for my review copy.
Grant surprised me most of all with her Perfect Fire trilogy, which went from here to here and, brilliantly, to here. More recently she gave us her Belle's Song, which again highlights her ability to portray olden times for riveting YA reads.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hartslove by K M Grant at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Hartslove by K M Grant at Amazon.com.
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