Monday, May 5, 2014

Mending Horses by M.P. Barker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Novel Review
Read: March 13, 2014

Daniel Linnehan is an indentured servant no more. He has his papers, his beloved horse, Ivy, and a new direction in life. But an Irish teenager, wearing fine clothes and riding an even finer horse, is asking for trouble. After a terrible misunderstanding leaves Daniel beaten, the peddler Jonathan Stocking takes Daniel under his wing. But Billy, another Irish youngster traveling with Mr. Stocking, is not thrilled that the two must work together, first as peddlers on the road and then in a traveling circus where Daniel heals and trains the skittish circus ponies and Billy charms audiences with a singing voice from heaven. All too soon, past secrets catch up with them, bringing danger and heartache. This deeply moving sequel to A Difficult Boy weaves an indelible piece of historical fiction into a gripping adventure that explores themes of patience, courage, kindness, and the true meaning of family.

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The sequel to Barker’s 2008 release, A Difficult Boy, Mending Horses reunites readers with Daniel Linnehan. Freed from indentured service Daniel attempts to make his way in the world and soon finds himself making unlikely alliances among the performers in a travelling circus where he works with a team of skittish prancing ponies. 

I personally feel my experience with this book was undermined by my having skipped its predecessor. Plot wise there is a lot going on in this piece and despite its being written for readers ages eight to fourteen, I felt my unfamiliarity with Daniel’s history made Mending Horses difficult to get into.

That being said I truly appreciated Barker’s attention to detail and vested interest in historical accuracy. Billy’s story in particular struck a chord with me and added a nice balance to heavily masculine narrative.  

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A smile flickered across Billy's face, then quickly faded. "So long as Mr. C. doesn't throw us out the of his show and take away our ponies. After all, I didn't chose him, now, did I?" She took one of Mr. Stocking's hands. "I chose you." To Daniel's surprise, Billy took his hand too. 
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