Fans of Wilson's gripping debut novel, I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade, may be disappointed in her latest horse tale, set in 640 B.C. Assyria. As the novel opens, 13-year-old Soulai broods over his negligence in allowing a lion to claim one of the goats in his family's herd; he was too busy sculpting clay horses to notice the predator. That same day, the burning lamp he had used to admire his sculptures causes a fire that destroys his family's home, as well as some expensive pieces that his father, a harness maker, was working on. His father sees no choice but to offer Soulai in payment to Jahdunlin, whose harnesses were destroyed; Jahdunlin in turn sells Soulai to the Assyrian prince Habasle to work as a stable hand. Unfortunately, neither Soulai nor Habasle is a character readers will sympathize with; Soulai is careless, Habasle cruel, and the journey through the lengthy novel grows tiresome. The setting here is not as tactile as 14th-century Mongolia was in Wilson's previous novel; even Ti, the central horse character, is weak-willed and unlikable. The author seems to set up a prince/pauper situation with repeated references to the likeness of slave owner and slave, yet nothing ever comes of it. The change of heart in Soulai, Habasle and Ti (and other minor characters, such as the royal stable master, Soulai's supervisor) comes too belatedly and unconvincingly to hold most readers' attention. Ages 9-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001 Release date: 01/01/2001 Genre: Children's
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