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Black Horses for the King
     If Wishes Were Horses
Anne McCaffrey
     Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey Books, 206 pages
     Roc Books, 85 pages


Art: David Shannon
Black Horses for the King

Art: Harvey Parker
If Wishes Were Horses
Anne McCaffrey
Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, MA. She graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literatures. Her first novel, Restoree, was published by Ballantine Books in l967. However, she is best know for her Dragonriders of Pern novels. Del Rey has developed an extensive site dedicated to her Pern novels.

Although she used to make appearances throughout the world, arthritis has now restricted such travel. She lives in a house of her own design, Dragonhold-Underhill, in Wicklow County, Ireland.

Anne McCaffrey Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Masterharper of Pern
Excerpt: The Dolphins of Pern
Excerpt: Dragon's Eye - aka Red Star Rising

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Regina Lynn Preciado

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I review these two stories together because they reach a similar audience and exhibit the same qualities. Both If Wishes Were Horses and Black Horses for the King tell pleasant, engaging stories. Both appeal to horse-crazy young readers. Both charmed me in a life-was-so-simple-then kind of way -- "then" being my childhood, when I read every horse book in the county. Yet both lack the suspense and tension that would make them truly great "reads."

McCaffrey's strength has always been in her characterization. Imperfect, likable characters kept me reading to the end in Freedom's Landing, an otherwise boring novel. In If Wishes Were Horses and Black Horses for the King, the characterization carries the tale.

Both stories feature dedicated, hard-working youngsters making a difference in their worlds, sometimes without their realizing it. Tirza in If Wishes Were Horses says little but observes much, while Galwyn in Black Horses for the King takes a more proactive approach to getting what he wants.

The problem is, getting what they want -- in both books, horses -- seems too easy. Tirza's far-seeing mother assures the children in the beginning that their father will return safely from the war, so that threat does not hang over us. The family, left behind to care for themselves and for the displaced villagers, meets each challenge with resourcefulness and creativity but without any real fear of failure.

If Wishes Were Horses is an agreeable little tale that makes for good reading aloud and provides a gentle escape from hectic modern life or movies about comets. In fact, If Wishes Were Horses reads more like a ballad than a story, complete with refrain: "I'll see what I can do about that," Mother said.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to tell Roc that a five-and-a-half by six-and-a-half-inch book of 85 pages is not a novel, despite what it says on the back jacket flap.

The central conflict in Black Horses for the King arises between earnest, devoted Galwyn and the violently jealous Iswy; it mirrors the strife between Artos (King Arthur) and the invading Saxons. Like the Saxons, Iswy remains off-stage for most of the drama; by the time the hostility reaches its peak, the outcome is so quick and so obvious that it's hardly worth mentioning. I never felt like Galwyn (or Artos, for that matter) was in danger, nor did I fear that Galwyn might fall to Iswy's scheming.

Black Horses for the King is rife with potential tension that McCaffrey leaves undeveloped -- an uncaring mother, an abusive uncle, concerns of class or poverty, and the difficulty of being a mere stable lad or blacksmith and yet bearing the King's favor.

I did like the new take on the Arthur mythos. McCaffrey is right -- if the Knights of the Round Table were as burly and strong as we've been led to believe, they needed bigger, sturdier horses than the native ponies. And being horse-crazy myself, I certainly enjoyed the central roles the Libyan horses and of the art of farriery play in the story.

Young girls are the most likely fans for these two stories. I think If Wishes Were Horses will especially appeal to seven- and eight-year-olds who have just begun to discover horse books. Adults who loved the original Pern or Crystal Singer novels and who keep hoping McCaffrey will produce another book like them may want to skip these two.

Copyright © 1999 by Regina Lynn Preciado

Regina Lynn Preciado writes and edits for a living. Her short-lived film career began with a role as an extra in The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition and ended with another in The Return of the Jedi: Special Edition. She wants to be an astronaut when she grows up. Or maybe a train engineer. Want to know more?


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