Hippoi Athanatoi

Fat White Ponies

As I managed to clear out some of my work earlier than expected, I decided to reward myself with a bit of reading from the rather large to-read pile that has accumulated of late. The book I picked up was Song of Unmaking by Caitlinn Brennan (a pseudonym for Judith Tarr ). This is the second in her series from Luna (Harlequin’s semi-new fantasy imprint), following on from last year’s The Mountain’s Call.

Like the previous book, this one also focuses on Valeria, the first woman to ever be Called to become one of the horse mages who ride the white gods (any and all striking similarities to Tarr’s own lippizans, or fat white ponies as she calls them, are completely intentional) of the Mountain in the Dance, a form of magic that foresees and controls the patterns that shape the world. The empire is once again threatened by the chaos-worshipping barbarians who harbour a powerful, nihilistic mage whose greatest wish is to unleash the Unmaking on the world, and Valeria could very well be contributing to the threat to the empire following her close encounter with the Unmaking in the first book. Kerrec , First Rider and once her lover, is also plagued by a dangerous weakness that finally leads him to leave the Mountain, and encouraged by her stallion, Sabata, Valeria follows him.

Although Luna is a Harlequin imprint, romance is by no means the dominant element in these books. I can think of a lot of fantasy (such as much of what Roc puts out, for example) that is more heavily romance-oriented, so in that sense it is not just ‘one for the girls’. It does, however, focus primarily on the female protagonist, Valeria, and of course on the horses. You don’t have to be a rider to enjoy the books, but you shouldn’t be the type who gloss over any descriptions of horse behaviour, horse care, riding, etc, as you would end up skimming rather large sections of the book. For my own part, I really like these books, and not just because of the horsey stuff, even if that’s a big plus.

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