Book Review: Dark Horse by Mary Herbert (TSR Books – 1990)

No dragons in this one. However, there are telepathic horses. They don’t fly, but I won’t knock them too much for that.

Dark Horse is the story of Gabria. By pure chance and an outburst of her own temper which caused her to leave her clan’s camp without permission, Gabria winds up the only survivor of a great massacre. Alone, angry, and grieving, she assumes her twin brother’s identity to join another clan and claim weir-geld: the right of revenge that only a man is allowed. Although she persuades the Khulinin chief to accept “Gabran,” her commander is suspicious, and his suspicion only grows when sorcery begins to threaten her new home.

It’s a good book. There’s one scene that I found a little weird and unnecessary, and that is the means by which Athlone, the captain, discovers Gabria is a woman. In many ways, the story reminds me of a more mature version of the movie Mulan—just set in a fantasy world and lacking the musical numbers.

Just because of the one scene, I’d recommend the book to older audiences. Otherwise, it’s a well-paced story, rich with history, culture, and its own religion. For being a book that stands on its own—and not a very long one, either—it manages a surprising amount of world-detail. There are four other books in the same world, but they each serve as stand-alone types of stories. I’ll review a couple of the others in the coming months though not all.

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