Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepard


Media Type: Audiobook
Title: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
Author: Megan Shepard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: Hardcover; 240
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Source: Library Borrow
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Content Screening: Nothing of note

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Young readers who enjoy magical realism and amazing characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own. 

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?
Oh, this book. I borrowed this on a whim from the library, and I'm so very glad that I did. Megan Shepard has woven a beautiful tale in The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. One that manages to mix fantasy and reality in a way that is both heartbreaking and sweet. I fell in love with Emmaline from page one, and I honestly wish that her story had gone on a little longer.

The writing in this book felt so familiar. Like an old friend, that I hadn't picked up in a while. I'd most easily compare this to something like The Secret Garden, with its rambling estate and precocious young characters. There was just enough magic patchworked into this story as well, with Emmaline's winged horses taking center stage. Which was perfection, to be honest. While there are definitely sad undertones, since this takes place during wartime, the magic here helps keep things on an even keel. I don't know if Middle Grade readers will get the layers here, but even with just the winged horses it's an excellent story.

As for the audiobook, I an attest that Fiona Hardingham is the perfect narrator for Emmaline's story. She brings the otherwordly place on the other side of the mirror, with its winged inhabitants, to life. I honestly think it gave me an even better experience than I could have hoped for. If you have an older MG reader, who is in love with simple magic, this is a book that you need to put in their hands. It was a gorgeous read.


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