Title: Black Horses for the King
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Major Themes: British History, King Arthur, Horses
Synopsis: Young Galwyn helps the man who will become King Arthur as he obtains big horses with which to drive the Saxons out of Britain.
I remember enjoying Black Horses for the King several years ago when I preread it before giving it to my daughter to read for school. I couldn’t remember it very well, though, so I was happy to have the chance to read it aloud to my boys now.
Black Horses for the King tells the story of King Arthur in a fresh, very real way. I’ve never been a real fan of the King Arthur stories that feature the wizard Merlin and the knights riding around competing with each other all the time. This story really sounds like it could have happened, and ties in very well with the other historical novels we’ve read recently (especially The Lantern Bearers).
As the story opens, Lord Artos is crossing the Narrow Sea (the English Channel), on a mission to buy big Libyan horses at the horse fair at Septimania in the Pyrennes mountains. Young Galwyn, a hand on the ship that carries them across, makes himself useful to the Comes Britannorum, the Count of Britain, and goes with them, then helps transport the big horses across the water. He finds himself working with the man who is struggling with the knotty problem of protecting the hooves of these big horses who are in a different climate than they are used to. They try many ways of attaching sandals to the horse’s hooves, and eventually find a method that works—just in time. The Saxons are on the move! Will the big horses be useful in driving the Saxons back, as Comes Artos envisions?
Black Horses for the King will be fascinating as a historical novel about early British history, as well as for anyone who enjoys horse stories.
WARNING: There are a few exclamations using a god’s name, and in the last section of the book Galwyn kills a man who has been trying to kill him or his horses all through the book.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15