Tuesday, June 14, 2011

King of the Wind

My mother got King of the Wind (and a couple other books) for Evalina for her birthday.  I had never read it.  I'm glad that I got a chance to!

The Story:  Agba is a mute horse-boy from the court of the Sultan in Morocco.  When the Sultan decides to send a company of his best horses to France as a state gift, Agba goes along with his beloved horse, Sham.  Unfortunately, Sham and the other horses are ill-treated on the journey, and don't arrive in France looking like the grand and royal Arabian horses that they are, but like malnourished nags.  Sham and Agba are separated from the other horses, and they go through many owners and jobs, but are never truly appreciated.  Then, finally, years later, and after many abuses, they come to the home of the Earl of Godolphin in England.  While at first, Sham's pedigree is not realized, he soon makes his mark on the world of horses and goes on to father a new and glorious line.

The Good:  It's historical fiction, which is fun.  The fact that Agba cannot speak is not even brought up in the narrative until a few chapters into the book.  The relationship between Agba and Sham is beautiful.  Even when the horse is ill-treated and separated from Agba, he always remembers the boy when they find each other again.  Agba is always thinking of the horse, and always wishes he could let the horse's grand origins be known.  He is sworn to be with Sham until he dies, and they do stay together until the end of the horse's days.  Some of Sham's owners are kind to both boy and horse, and it is heartening to see.  Mostly, it's wonderful to see Sham live up to his potential greatness at the end.

The Bad:  Some of the treatment of Sham (and Agba) is really reprehensible.  It's enough to make a horse lover cringe.  The horse is often ill fed, ill taken care of, and under appreciated.  At one point, Agba ends up in prison, and at another time, the two of them end up in a lonely exile.  Might be a bit much to take for younger kids.

The Verdict:  This is a wonderful story about the origins of the Thoroughbred horse, and about the love of a boy for a horse, and of a horse for a boy.  Amazon recommends this book for ages 9-12, and I would agree.  Evalina is 8 and did well with me reading it to her, but some of the language and themes would have been difficult without me there to help her out a bit.  I would recommend this one, and so would Evalina.  There were many nights when she was not satisfied with one chapter, because of how exciting the story was.  If you like horses, you will likely enjoy this book.

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