Megiddo's Shadow

Megiddo's Shadow

by Arthur G. Slade

Fueled by anger at the death of his two brothers in World War I, 16-year-old Edward abandons his ailing father on their farm and leaves Canada to enlist. After proving that he can tame any wild horse, he's is sent to Jordan to fight with the Cavalry.

Luckily, his horse is the extraordinary Buke; in battle, a trooper's horse is the key to life and death, and

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Fueled by anger at the death of his two brothers in World War I, 16-year-old Edward abandons his ailing father on their farm and leaves Canada to enlist. After proving that he can tame any wild horse, he's is sent to Jordan to fight with the Cavalry.

Luckily, his horse is the extraordinary Buke; in battle, a trooper's horse is the key to life and death, and his true companion. In the harsh desert, Edward is grateful for the camaraderie of his tent mates, Cheevers and Blackburn,and letters from Emily, a nurse he met at base camp. As they close in on the enemy Edward finds that the glory and noble vengeance he seeks is replaced by the horror of war and the realization that he must fight not only to survive, but also, to kill.

Editorial Reviews

WW I and horses, an old-fashioned war story with a young hero who evolves from a enthusiastic warrior to a more reflective person who hates war--this novel will appeal to readers of adventure. It begins on the plains of Canada when Edward learns of the death of his older brother, who was fighting in France. Edward's rage and desire for revenge against the Germans drive him to abandon his father who is sick with depression over the loss of his son, leave the farm, and lie about his age to join up to fight in Europe. When he arrives in England, because of his farm experience, he is put to work training horses for the cavalry. This keeps him safe for a while, though he hates that, but eventually he goes with the cavalry to Palestine. The action there, the horror of the killing of men and horses, changes everything. In England, Edward meets a young nurse, Emily, who eventually is sent to work in France. They exchange letters, their love for one another growing, until war destroys everything between them. At the end of the book, Edward returns home, now understanding why his father, who fought in the Boer War, never wanted his sons to fight. So we have here a war story that becomes an anti-war story, as most do. The details about training horses and being close to horses give the novel special appeal. (The story is based on the experiences of the author's grandfather, who fought in Palestine and Egypt in WW I.) KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Random House, Wendy Lamb, 304p., $15.95.. Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
Children's Literature - Monserrat Urena
Hector Bathe, Edward's older brother, dies fighting for his country during World War I. Back home, Edward's father, bedridden and under emotional duress, refuses to let his remaining son enlist. Despite his father's forbidding, Edward, only sixteen, joins the war effort. His journey leads him from his native Canada, across the Atlantic, all the way to Palestine. Along the way he falls in love, develops a close camaraderie with his fellow soldiers, and forms an unbreakable bond with his horse, Bucephalus or "Buke" for short. This is not a romanced or lovely story about a horse and his boy; it is an incarnation of Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est." The text's presentation of the emotional and psychological inner struggles that arise when propaganda fails is an uncompromising look at humanity in the chaos of war. This is a highly engrossing and recommended book for young readers. Slade does not pander to his readers; he instead gives them a book whose message and main character embody the very questions and sorrows that are so painfully pertinent to our present point in world history.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-An engrossing and thought-provoking story of a young man fighting in World War I. Upon learning of his brother's death at the German front, 16-year-old Edward Bathe lies about his age and enlists, leaving Canada and his father's farm for England. When he injures himself training a horse, he meets Emily Waters, an army nurse. Their relationship progresses through letters when Emily transfers to the front. A move from the infantry to the yeomanry starts Edward's war in earnest, but his plans to avenge his brother's death are altered when he is sent to Palestine to fight the Turks. Soldiers die from the heat and disease, horses fall in action, and friends die in battle. The young man's faith in God and in humanity are shaken, and he returns to Canada injured in body and spirit. All of the characters are fully realized, from Edward, a church-going innocent, to his "Uncle Nix," a friend of the family and an army colonel who spouts platitudes about people "in the Empire having to dig in and give" but who honestly believes what he says. Edward's camaraderie with his tent mates keeps him reasonably sane until he discovers that one of them enjoys killing. Megiddo's Shadow is the perfect book to have on hand for the ever-popular historical-fiction assignment, but don't purchase it for only that reason. Buy it because it is a powerful book that needs to be read.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What would it be like to have your faith in God and country tested in the Holy Land itself? Sixteen-year-old Canadian Edward Bathe has already lost his brother Hector in World War I, and now he feels it's his duty to serve. He abandons his ailing father and heads off to war, ending up in Palestine to fight the Turks. The war shatters Edward's faith, and when he returns home and enters his old church, he whispers to the carving of Jesus on the cross, "I walked where you walked, and I didn't see you anywhere." The narrative takes its time in getting Edward to Palestine, but when he enters battle on his beloved horse Buke, the scenes are every bit as exciting as any movie spectacle. Though additional historical context would have provided depth to the story, rousing action and characters to care about yield a memorable tale. A good match with Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful (2003). (map, author's note) (Fiction. 12-15)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Megiddo's Shadow

By Arthur Slade

Wendy Lamb Books

Copyright © 2006 Arthur Slade
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385909454

Book One

Oh! we don't want to lose you

But we think you ought to go,

For your King and your Country

Both need you so.

We shall want you and miss you,

But with all our might and main

We shall cheer you, thank you, kiss you

When you come home again.

"Your King and Country Want You" Lyrics by Paul Rubens


The letter was stained with mud from France, but there was a British army stamp in the corner, and the handwriting looked fancy and official. Maybe Hector had won a medal! He'd finally given the Huns a good, hard punch on the nose.

I left the general store, nearly tripping on the sidewalk planks as I searched the envelope for clues about its contents. I wanted to rip it open, but it had been addressed to Dad. My breath turned to frost in the October air. Hector must've jumped out of the trenches and taken a machine-gun nest, or perhaps he'd captured a bunch of Germans. He'd joined up in 1916, so he'd been over there for more than a year; lots of time to do something heroic. I jogged the half mile to our farm, watching for our white and green house to appear on the other side of the hill, with the rolling prairie spread out beyond it.

Maybe Hector would be getting a Victoria Cross pinned to his chest. He would make the papers all across Canada.

I stopped in my tracks. I fingered the thin envelope, mymouth dry. What if it's not a medal. What if . . . I wouldn't let myself think the words.

If he'd fallen in France I'd surely have felt something deep in my heart, even thousands of miles away here in Saskatchewan.

Such dark thoughts had made my legs numb. I leaned against our sign that said bathe family farm. Father had carved it to put a name to the fields he'd cut out of the prairie. Land he intended to pass on to us boys.

No Hun bullet would ever kill Hector, but perhaps he'd been so badly wounded that he couldn't even pick up a pen.

My hand shook as I flicked open my pocketknife and slit the envelope. I'd tell Dad I just couldn't wait to read the good news.

I scanned the first few lines.

R.S. Major 27/09/17 15th Canadian Batt B.E.F.

Dear Mr. Wilfred Bathe,

You will no doubt wonder who this is writing to you. I will try to explain as well as I can; I am the regimental sergeant major of the above battalion. I have a very painful duty to perform in--

My heart stopped. It wasn't just a "painful duty," but a "very painful duty," and I knew what had to follow. I sucked in a rattling breath. And another. Oh, God. Oh, no.

I forced myself to move toward the house. It was an eternity before I got there. I opened the door, the squeaking hinge unusually loud. I passed through the empty hall and up the worn stairs, glancing at the Union Jack that hung on the wall. I pulled myself up with the rail. I'd gone from sixteen to a hundred years old.

At the top of the landing I stopped to wipe my icy, sweaty palms on my overalls. I glanced at the oval photograph of Dad in his dragoons uniform, medals from the South African war glittering on his chest. Hung next to him was the picture of Mother in her Sunday best, and the thought of her made my legs go weak. It was a blessing God had taken her; today would have broken Mom's heart. Beside her was a photograph of Hector and me, when he was fourteen and I was twelve. I looked away and tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

Maybe he'd just been terribly wounded, his bright green eyes blinded by gas. That was why he couldn't write. Or perhaps his arm had been blown off. If so, when he got home he would still be able to fork hay with one hand. I'd help him. I would.

I knocked and entered the master bedroom. The stink of pee and old sweat hung in the air, a sign of how weak Dad was now. He lay sleeping, sheets pulled up to his neck, cheekbones sticking out of his long, pale face as though he were starving. His once proud and bushy mustache was limp and stringy.

I sat on the wooden chair and waited, my hands still trembling. Dad had been bedridden for seven months, leaving me to seed, harvest, and do the chores. In March, on the anniversary of Mom's death, he stayed in bed all day, as prickly as a cactus. He didn't get up the next day, or the next. In fact, he didn't get up at all. He gave up on everything. The man I'd seen flip and pin a calf in a heartbeat couldn't even pull himself out of bed.

It wasn't the first time he'd been bedridden. Once or twice a year he'd go all dour and stay in bed. Mom would give him a day or two before she grabbed his work clothes and boots and goaded him to his feet. After her funeral he spent three days in bed. On the fourth day Hector set Dad's work clothes and boots on the end of the bed. Dad was out to the barn within an hour, not saying a word.

This time, I'd tried the same trick after the first week, but no luck. When it came to Dad, Hector had the magic touch; it'd always been that way. All I could do was call Dr. Fusil, an old man with sharp eyes. This was, of course, against Father's wishes.

"Wilfred's body is fine," Dr. Fusil said out on the front porch after the visit. He slowly pulled on his coat. "His mind, though, is troubled. If his condition worsens and he refuses all food and water, there's a sanitarium in Regina I could recommend. That'd leave you with a heavy load, though."

I'm already doing all the work! I felt like shouting. But instead, I only shrugged, and the doctor putted away in his Model T.

Now, I sat back in the chair, making it creak.

"What's in your hand, Edward?" Father asked.

His gray eyes searched mine. I could see every long day he'd worked.

"It's a letter from Hector's major."

From the Hardcover edition.


Excerpted from Megiddo's Shadow by Arthur Slade Copyright © 2006 by Arthur Slade. 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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Meet the Author

Arthur Slade has published several novels for young readers, including Tribes. The author lives in Saskatoon, Canada.

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