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Horse from the Sea
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Horse from the Sea

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by Victoria Holmes

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When fourteen-year-old Nora Donovan hears that Spanish soldiers may be sailing near the west coast of Ireland, she never expects that one of their ships will actually crash on the shore next to her home. Helping to clear the wreckage, Nora discovers a beautiful white stallion, injured and lost. Nora boldly leads the horse to a nearby cave and nurses him back to


When fourteen-year-old Nora Donovan hears that Spanish soldiers may be sailing near the west coast of Ireland, she never expects that one of their ships will actually crash on the shore next to her home. Helping to clear the wreckage, Nora discovers a beautiful white stallion, injured and lost. Nora boldly leads the horse to a nearby cave and nurses him back to health.

But hiding in the cave is one of the soldiers. He's also injured, very young, and wanted by the English army. Nora wants to help the boy get home safely, but she'll have to risk everything—including the magnificent stallion.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Nora Donovan, 14, doesn't fit the mold of a proper young lady, preferring the company of wild ponies to that of people. The atmosphere is tense in 16th-century Ireland because the British are persecuting Catholics and the Spanish are sending soldiers to defend Catholicism. During a terrible storm, a ship from the Armada wrecks near Nora's village and she rescues a young Spanish sailor and an Andalusian stallion. She hides them both in a cave and tries to figure out how to get Jos back to Spain. Thinking that her clan leader will help, she takes Jos to the man's castle. However, once they arrive, he is claimed as a prisoner and Lir is taken for a war horse. After rescuing them both, Nora eventually finds a way to help her friend get home and then sets Lir free to run with the wild ponies. An author's note explains that the Connemara pony is descended from these shipwrecked stallions. Readers who want anything and everything to do with horses will enjoy this story and its myriad equine details, but others may feel bogged down. The main characters are not well developed and it is difficult to maintain interest in them. The freedom Nora enjoys does not seem believable and the plot is predictable. Jane Yolen's The Queen's Own Fool (Philomel, 2000), set during the same time period, has stronger characters.-Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The Horse from the Sea

By Victoria Holmes

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Victoria Holmes
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060520280

Chapter One


(modern-day County Galway),

Western Ireland, 1588

"Are you not coming to dance, Honora Donovan?"

The voice came out of the shadows, making Nora jump and clutch her long woolen brat more closely around her shoulders. "Who's there?" she called, narrowing her eyes to peer past the rumps of the ponies in the byre. As she spoke, the sound of music -- a high-pitched fiddle over the steady hollow beat of the bodhran -- struck up in the great hall on the other side of the courtyard, filtering through Aughnanure Castle's thick stone walls and the quiet twilight. The pony beside Nora shifted uneasily, her ears flicking at the unfamiliar noise, and Nora rested one hand on the pony's warm damp shoulder to calm her.

"Easy, Ballach," she soothed. The mare's name meant "freckled," a fair description of the dark gray flecks that spotted her almost white coat. Ballach tossed her head and rubbed her nose against the sleeve of Nora's dress, streaking it with a trail of foam. Nora pulled her arm away, and the man by the doorway laughed.

"Is that you, Con Foyle?" she demanded, recognizing the tall, long-limbed figure when he shifted briefly into the gray light seeping through the open door. There were no torches in the byre,though, later on, a burning branch or two might be spared so that the chieftain's guests could safely retrieve their animals for the journey home. "What are you doing, hiding there fit to scare the wits out of the horses?"

"I'm waiting for you, of course." Con Foyle stepped forward, ducking his head to avoid the low wooden beam that stretched across the roof. Nora's older brother Sean was married to Con's sister, Rua. Their families lived side by side on the Errislannan Peninsula, two days' ride from Aughnanure. Since his sixteenth birthday a year ago, Con had joined the rank of soldier known as a kern in the private army of Murray ne Doe O'Flaherty, the lord of Aughnanure Castle. For tonight's feast Con proudly carried a short iron sword, but Nora knew he was just as likely to wield a stout wooden cattle prod; he and the other kerns tended their chieftain's huge and much-envied herds when they weren't defending the tower house from quarrelsome neighbors or English soldiers.

He held out his hand. "Come on, you've had long enough to settle your mare. I saw Sean and Rua go into the hall ages ago."

Nora hesitated, twisting her hands into the edge of her cloak. Ballach blew warm breath onto her back and for a moment she wished she could stay here in the quiet, steamy byre. "I should just make sure that Ballach has enough hay," she hedged.

Con gestured impatiently to the corner of the byre. "There's a whole field of hay there," he said. "Are you sure you don't have hooves instead of feet, Nora? If you stay here any longer, you'll miss the feast altogether."

Nora shrugged. She was well used to being teased for preferring the company of horses to people -- if not gentle Ballach, then the wild ponies that lived in the mountains between here and her home in Errislannan.

The musicians in the great hall paused briefly before launching into another tune, one that she recognized as a swirling, energetic reel. This was only the second time she had been to a feast at Aughnanure, but there were plenty of people in Errislannan who played the fiddle and bodhran, and however much she might shy away from noisy company, Nora loved dancing and singing as much as any of her neighbors. The reel was clearly popular with the rest of the O'Flaherty clan because the noise of feet grew louder, pounding against the rush-strewn floor.

Con grabbed Nora's hand. "Quick," he said. "We're missing the best of Padraig's playing," and he led her at a run out of the byre and across the courtyard. His long legs carried him easily over the rutted ground, already sticky from the early autumn rains.

Nora was a whole head shorter than Con and hampered by the woolen dress which dragged at her legs. Halfway across the courtyard she wrenched her hand free and stopped. "Enough, Con Foyle!" she exclaimed, using both hands to push her heavy black hair away from her face.

He glanced over his shoulder and grinned at her, his teeth a pale gleam in the half-light, then bent low in an exaggerated bow. "Murray ne Doe O'Flaherty, most feared chieftain of Iar-Connacht, awaits the pleasure of your company, Nora Donovan," he told her. "Will you be keeping him any longer?"

"He'll not be wanting me looking like a bog-wraith!" she retorted, straightening her dress and shaking out the long folds of her brat. Privately, she doubted the chieftain would even know who she was. Nora's was not one of the more important families protected by the O'Flahertys -- her father, Tom Donovan, farmed a tiny croft on a strip of land jutting into the sea on the far side of the Connemara mountains -- but they provided their fair share of oats and butter to their chief's household, and for tonight's feast Nora's eldest brother Colm had brought a barrel of salted oysters. Murray ne Doe was a generous man and held feasts for his clan throughout the year;

this one was celebrating a good harvest safely in, and not too much of it paid in tithes to the English lords in the town of Galway.

Satisfied that her clothes were straight and that there were no wisps of hay in her hair, Nora followed Con more slowly, listening to the noise of music, dancing, and chatter grow louder. Murray ne Doe had built his single-story banqueting hall outside the wall that surrounded his tower house; guests were permitted as far as the courtyard inside the first bawn, a stone wall taller than the height of two men and thicker than a man's outstretched arms, but no further. As well as the hall for feasting, the outer wall surrounded several little huts, thatched with reeds like the hall but with simple wooden walls, where the animals were kept and Murray ne Doe's huge extended family and servants lived.


Excerpted from The Horse from the Sea by Victoria Holmes Copyright © 2006 by Victoria Holmes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Victoria Holmes grew up on a farm in England, where she learned to ride at the age of two. When she wasn't riding ponies and hand-rearing calves, she enjoyed reading and writing stories of her own. She studied English at Oxford University, where the beautiful ancient buildings and sense of tradition inspired an interest in history. Victoria now works in London as a children's book editor and escapes to the English countryside whenever she can to ride horses and walk her dog, Missy.

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Horse from the Sea 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
Nora Donovan is a 14-year-old Irish lass whose story takes place in 1588. The thing she loves most is being with the wild mountain ponies. Throughout the village, Nora is well known for spending more time with the ponies than with humans. The story quickly shifts from a grand party at Aughnanure Castle to a despairing scene at the beach where a Spanish ship has wrecked. Not much survived from the ship, but Nora found the biggest prize: a tall, Andalusian stallion. She also finds something else... a drowning sailor from the wrecked ship. Nora is forced into deciding on something hard. If she helps this young, stranded sailor, how much danger is she putting herself into? Even her own family is afraid of the Spanish sailors. By telling them what she found, she would be endangering her entire family's safety. So she keeps it all a secret. The story soon melts into a huge, furtive journey that Nora did not plan on taking. It involves some scheming, escaping, sword-fighting, and especially, it entails horse riding. One thing to mention: Throughout the book, Nora's family and other villagers talk of "little green fairies" and a "sea god" and other similar, minor, old Irish beliefs. To me, these references somewhat enhanced the story to make it seem more true to that time period. Also, you might learn a few new Irish words! Overall, it was an exhilarating tale that I enjoyed. Recommended for ages 10-15.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timberwolf More than 1 year ago
This is a great, exciting book that I would recommend to any reader. It does not have a high reading level as far as I know. I like to read tougher books, and I liked it, so I think that any reader, even those older than what it reccomends, should enjoy this book quite nicely. It has a great plot and exciting script, ending with a sad heartbreaking goodbye that leaves the reader wanting to read more of VIctoria Holmes's books. Any fan of the Warriors series (also written by Victoria Holmes, but under the pen name Erin Hunter) would definity be able to tell that this book was written by her. All in all, any reader who enjoys daring, life-threatening adventures would like this book, and even those who don't!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Horse from the sea' is a GREAT BOOK! I was supposed to read this for class and it was really good! Once i started reading, I couldn't stop! It's very realistic and you can understand it. There is no other book in the world that is this great. Its about a girl, Honora, a.k.a. Nora. She spends most of her time with wild ponies. Then a Spanish ship gets wrecked by her house and Nora discovers a Beautiful Spanish Horse. Then she decides to try and nurse it back to health. But, then she discovers that there is someone else that she has to help.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful, exciting book full of history, excitement, and humanity. The characters are wonderfully real and unbelievably courageous. You become caught up in their stories and come all too soon to the last page, asking, 'Isn't there more?!' The plot takes surprising twists, but in the end is resloved in a way that will make readers happy. The reader is transported to a beautiful land and time far away from our current realities. This book will not disappoint!