Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Verity Grey is hired by an eccentric archeologist obsessed with finding out what became of Romes lost Ninth Legion. He's sure it disappeared in Britain, on the ground he now owns, inf fact. Working with him is Verity's ex, her employer's daughter (and ex's current fling), and a handsome local archeologist who is initially elusive but very attractive. Verity is won over by her employer's enthusiasm, but not as thrilled with his evidence: He's basing his theories on a young boy's second site. Still, Verity agrees to stay for a time, and finds herself troubled by ghosts, fog, and the sound of horses galloping by at night in an area where no horses live.

The Shadowy Horses reminded me quite a bit of the Mary Stewart mystery/romance stories. This is both good and bad: It's good because I like Mary Stewart, and I have read all of her other books, so it was nice to find a potential read alike. It's bad because it wasn't quite a read-alike. Kearsley does some good atmosphere work, and the ghostly centurion, still on guard after all these centuries, and still trying to right old wrongs is a great character. There are also plenty of intrigues and troubles in the present-day crew, enough to make anyone nervous.

The trouble is, Verity Grey lacks some of the spunk of Stewart's heroines. Sure, they all end up turning to the nearest handsome male for help, but they usually don't quaver at the very first sign of ghostly chills. Grey's convinced there's a ghost, and terrified of it, well before there's any real evidence of any actual ghost. Also, I would have liked to see more archeology going on. Kearseley introduces Verity as a well-established, respected archeologist in her own right, but once she reaches the site, actual digging seems to give way to ghostly visitations, romance, and alleged second sight.

Ultimately, I found it fun, light reading, and I'm not sorry to have picked it up, but I thought it needed more oomph. I kept wanting Verity to assert herself more, to turn around when there were ghostly rustles, to show just a bit more backbone.

Random side note one: I think Kearsley also reminds me of Phillippa Whitney, but this is more a memory of some late, late nights reading Whitney's books during my high school years than any other real feeling. And, as those nights spent quietly reading, with no one else up, are treasured memories, I probably won't risk revisiting Whitney and discovering I don't like her any more. That, of course, risks not reading an author I would like now, but all the same, I think I'll let her be.

Random side note two: The Lost Legion caught my attention because of Andre Norton's The Last Planet, which really has nothing to do with the story here, but is one of my favorite books ever, and has had perpetual place on my bookshelves wherever I may be.

Other Reviews

A Book a Week This is where I first learned about it. Kiirstin Maki likes it loads more than I did, so you may want to read her review as well!

Melissa's Bookshelf
A Good Stopping Point
The Eclectic Reader
Lots more results from Fyrefly's Book Blog Search

Got a review I should include? Drop me a line and let me know!

Links of Interest
The Shadowy Horses on Amazon Gracious! It's a 2012 book! Here I was thinking it was written back when...whenever Mary Stewart was writing. I should look that up, I suppose, but Stewart's one of those writers whose just always been there on the shelves, you know? Something of a legend I'm not sure I'm ready to look up her bio and put her in the real world.


Susanna Kearsley's home page, where you can read her blog, catch up on her book lists, and generally find more stuff!


  1. Ahhh! I love that you read this! It sounds like some of the things that bugged me bugged you even more... I agree with you totally about the "oomph" factor being missing. That said, I quite liked Verity. :) And I could have done with a bit more archaeology myself, for sure.

    There's a follow-up in which I believe Robbie figures heavily, The Firebird. Not raring to read it, but I'm sure I'll get around to it sometime.

    1. It never occurred to me to look to see if there was a sequel, even though I found Susanna Kearsley's page! Now I need to mark it for future possible reading.