Horse from the Sea: An Epic Horse Story

Horse from the Sea: An Epic Horse Story

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by Victoria Holmes

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Nora came to the farthest end of the beach. The waves had drawn back with the tide, exposing a swathe of boulders and seaweed strewn with yet more wood, and here and there a gleam of metal.

But there was nothing else: a pale gray shape lying close to the edge of the water. Nora slithered down the rock to the beach. Her heart started to beat faster as she

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Nora came to the farthest end of the beach. The waves had drawn back with the tide, exposing a swathe of boulders and seaweed strewn with yet more wood, and here and there a gleam of metal.

But there was nothing else: a pale gray shape lying close to the edge of the water. Nora slithered down the rock to the beach. Her heart started to beat faster as she made out a smooth, arched flank the color of seafoam and a long mane tangled with seaweed and sand.

Then the horse on the sand lifted his head and snorted, and Nora realized that it was alive.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, 14-year-old Nora Donovan and her family live a precarious existence. They are Catholic, as are most inhabitants on Ireland's coast, while Elizabeth is intent on her father's policy of doing away with anything Catholic. The family must worship in secret, yet the chieftain under whose protection the Donovans live owes his rich estate to the crown. Now comes the frightening news of Spanish ships spotted along their coast. When a fierce storm causes a Spanish ship to wreck on their shore, Norah's family salvages whatever supplies wash up, thankful that the sea god, Manannan mac Lir, claimed the sailors' lives since sheltering a rescued Spanish sailor could mean trouble—a visit from English troops. Nora discovers a beautiful Andalusian stallion on the beach; she nurses him back to health, hiding him in a seaside cave, where another survivor—a young Spanish sailor—is also recovering. When she decides to help the sailor find a homebound Spanish ship, Norah must call upon every bit of courage and resourcefulness she has—including her gift of being able to tame the wild horses of the hills—to find safety for Jose and Lir, the stallion she cannot keep for herself. This beautifully-written book is an exciting read for young adult readers. As with any well-researched period novel, it is a great history lesson, too. 2005, HarperCollins Children's Books, and Ages 12 to 15.
—Judy Crowder
School Library Journal - 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.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(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: 0060520299

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.

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