cover image THE DARK HORSE


Marcus Sedgwick, . . Random/Lamb, $15.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73054-9

Like an ancient cave painting come to life, Sedgwick's (Floodland) tale of dark enchantment depicts primitive tribe in a north country, reminiscent of Norse sagas. Third-person narration alternates with the haunting first-person account of Sigurd Olafsson, as he remembers discovering Mouse, a girl who becomes his foster sister, living in a cave with wolves. Sigurd's tribe, the Storn, is a coastal community that resides in stone brochs and survives by fishing and sporadic trade with seafarers. The tribe slowly accepts the strange girl (gifted with powers that enable her to fly with crows and to "use animals... as a channel through which she could feel and see"), and Mouse forges a strong bond with Sig. After a white-haired magician with black palms washes ashore, Mouse and Sig discover his magic box. Mouse unwittingly unleashes its power, leading to the arrival of The Dark Horse, a fierce southern nomadic tribe searching for their long-lost Princess Kara. At just 16, Sig must lead his tribe in a violent confrontation while Mouse discovers her true destiny. To use Sig's metaphor, with the unstoppable power of a boulder that "moves slowly at first, as if unsure of what it will do, but then it speeds up, until it hurtles headlong into the future," the hero and Mouse are forever changed , as they come of age in this eerie, mythic novel. Delicate, atmospheric drawings open each chapter. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)