Eleven-year-old Maia is a better rider than her older brother, and a better shot, but her father, the Lord of Avenal, refuses to let her compete in the annual tournament and prove she is as brave a warrior as him.
Angry at her father’s decision, Maia rides her pony deep into the valley where she stumbles across a rag-tag boy called Raven. Little does she realise, this strange boy’s friendship will change her life forever. Dark plans are afoot for the peaceful prosperous land of Avenal and Maia is forced to undertake a journey far from home and the ones she loves. With only her pony and the annoying Raven to help her, Maia must find a way to save Avenal. And, along the way, discover within her the power to change the world.
To be honest, I picked this up pretty much completely on account of loving that cover, and when I read it I was actually a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed it!
For one thing, I do love a story about a youngish girl/woman taking on the patriarchy! Maia is clearly a better rider than her brother, and is furious that she isn’t taken seriously. This element of the story felt really organic, rather than preachy or forced, and I found myself immediately on Maia’s side.
It is so hard to say much more without getting spoilery, but the book is packed with adventure, with a side of mystery, and some intriguing magic too. (Also, HORSES)
In terms of the style and language etc, Horse Warrior reminded my of Kate Forsyth’s The Chain of Charms series, also for this age group.
Overall, this one was a pleasant surprise and gave it 4/5 stars. I’m super keen to find out what happens to Maia next!
Source: Free copy sent to me by Harbour Publishing
Category: middle-grade fantasy fiction
Themes: sexism, death, adventure (is adventure a theme?)