Sixteen-year-old Meagan Roberts returns as a doughty groom to a fierce Spaniard in this adventurous tale of equestrian excellence, the sequel to Into the Dark. The fierce Spaniard is no less than Henry Cortes, and the battlefield upon which he rides is filled with screaming Aztec warriors.
For a time it seems the would-be conquerors will themselves be conquered by hundreds of thousands of the Aztec spearmen, who are expert at fighting hand-to-hand. Even Cortes’ superiority in weapons — his men mow down the warriors from afar with cannon and rifleshot — cannot guarantee their victory against the sheer, screaming numbers of heathen opponents.
But the tide is turned when thirteen Spaniards, mounted on high-stepping stallions, appear over the rise. The natives have never seen horses before and flee in terror before the advancing cavalry.
Meagan, for her part, simply hides and wishes for a chance to climb aboard El Morzillo — Cortes’ favorite mount and, in all likelihood, a Great Horse capable of transporting her through time.
She goes to sleep in 14th century Mexico and wakes up in a stables stall in 15th century England — mysteriously having slept through the time travel — and soon finds herself the ward of a red-faced, heavyset cook with a rich English accent and an overbearing manner — think Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey.
“The cook pushed past Meagan and shuttered the window, snapping the latch closed. The woman’s eye fell on the pot, half-submerged (in dishwasher). ‘Not enough to keep you busy, is that the trouble? Start on the stove when you’re finished with the washing.’ Meagan nodded, swallowing at the forbidding black monstrosity being called a stove.”
Meagan, mercifully, winds up in the stables again, then is “adopted” by gypsies after being turned out by the staff of the British manor house. She discovers her Great Horse Nero there, but he is woefully underfed. No time to worry about that, however. She barely has time to get her bearings with the gypsies before she goes to sleep again — and finds herself in Versailles, recovering from ague. She finds Nero in the palace stables, then is invited to ride with the King.
Later, she is “dragooned” into giving the royal court riding lessons, just in time for the St. Valentine’s Hunt. At times, Meagan can barely restrain her exasperation with her dandied clientele.
“In the hothouse of Court life, Henrietta had blossomed into highly obnoxious fruit. ‘Very well, Henrietta. Please stand closer, next to the horse. I can’t throw you up,'” Meagan says crossly.
I won’t spoil the ending by revealing whether or not Meagan gets any closer to her true home in the present day, but suffice to say, there’s still plenty of adventure for her before the end of The Golden Spark.
These stories are so well-written, and expertly edited, they are a pleasure to read. Obviously, the author is himself an experienced horseman, and that intricate knowledge of horses, their habits, and the great love he has for them shines through on every page.
Five stars for The Golden Spark, and eager anticipation for the third book in the Great Horse Trilogy.