Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Horses for the King - Anne McCaffrey

Black Horses For The King
Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey
Copyright: 2006
978-0345422576

The amazon.com product description:
Lord Artos--later to rule as the legendary King Arthur--knew he could defeat the Saxon invaders if only he could find a race of horses swift and strong enough to carry warriors in full regalia fast and far. And so he set out for the Continent, in search of the famed horses of the desert.

The key to Lord Artos' plan was the young runaway Galwyn Varianus, whose gift for horse-trading was second only to his skill with horses. What no one expected was how crucial Galwyn would be to the upcoming battles--as he mastered the secrets of the iron shoes that would protect the desert horses' delicate hooves . . .

This fast-moving historical fantasy by bestselling author Anne McCaffrey--the story of King Arthur as it has never been told before--is about the beginnings of the British cavalry, as recounted by a boy growing up in exciting and perilous times.
Black Horses For The King is quite a departure from Anne McCaffrey's usual style of books, being a historical fiction novel rather than science fiction or romance (she does have a few of those, including Three Women, The Lady etc.

It's also one of the most different Arthurian stories I've read, and those range a bit, including such gems as Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, by Mercedes Lackey, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Skystone/Dream of Eagles Cycle by Jack Whyte. Where in each of those stories, the main character is one that is a known an major part of the general Arthurian story, such as Merlin or Morgan Le Fay, this time the character is an unknown.

Anne McCaffrey's love of horses shows through in the writing of Black Horses For The King, to the point where the focus of the story is on the horses, and the invention of iron horseshoes, which she has set to the same time. It's neat, seeing the evolution of that through trial and error, and all of the little details.

Seeing King Arthur's (or Lord Artos, as he's called in this book) court through the eyes of Galwyn, who has his own worries and problems is a very refreshing change, for he's not involved in the decision-making in any way, but just goes where he's ordered, and does his best to care for the horses the Companions need.

Actually, one of the neatest bits of this book - it's a shorter book, written for young adults, is the author's note at the beginning of the story, about the history of horseshoes, and some little bits of trivia about King Arthur and Great Britain.

I remember looking forward to this book and waiting for it to come out back in 1996 - I think I'd just started reading the Pern books around then too, and I've read it a couple of time since. I was inspired to read the book again now, because of Anne McCaffrey's death earlier this week.
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