Plot: She Who Rides Horses: A Saga of the Ancient Steppe is a rich work of historical fiction that imagines the story of the first individual who ever came to tame and ride a wild horse.
Prose: Barnes's prose is smooth, evocative, and pleasingly descriptive. The author brilliantly captures the lives of those in an ancient world with vivid and authentic detail.
Originality: In concept and execution, this is a highly unique work of historical fiction that will deeply gratify readers.
Character/Execution: Naya is a captivating and fascinating character and the author's approach to the topic of the human-animal bond is thoughtful, philosophical, and resonant.
Date Submitted: May 05, 2022
With an audacious yearning to connect to Réhda, Naya declares “I wish…to ride upon your back.” Immediately, the two enter a mystical communion that her intuitive grandmother, Awija, calls a soul journey. “The two of you are connected now. Your destinies are entwined,” Awija says. Barnes skillfully creates an atmosphere of rugged life among the steppes, as Naya and her tribe hunt, heal, and navigate a nomadic life. Naya’s father believes taming the horses will provide a ready source of meat, and he encourages her to bond with the herd–leading them to follow her when the tribe moves to new grazing lands. But Naya stays tethered to her goal of one day riding the horses, and after a tragic accident threatens her life, she meets a young man, Aytal, who believes in her quest.
In simple, clear prose Barnes brings life to a cast of smart, fully realized characters who possess the insight to do what no one else has done. Barnes also, most memorably, captures the beauty and gentleness of the horses. Rich descriptions of the era and the determination of the young adult characters, along with prudent encouragement of the adults, make this adventure a must-read for lovers of horses and historical fiction.
Takeaway: Horse lovers will relish this historical adventure about a young woman who becomes the first person to ride a horse.
Great for fans of: Elizabeth George Speare’s The Sign of the Beaver, Melody Huttinger’s Arrow the Sky Horse.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A