Rider in the Dark: An Epic Horse Story

Rider in the Dark: An Epic Horse Story

5.0 1
by Victoria Holmes

Everything in Helena's life is in perfect order. The daughter of magistrate Lord Roseby, she has a comfortable home on a grand estate, and with the help of her best friend, Jamie the stable boy, she is able to secretly ride her father's powerful horses -- without the confines of a sidesaddle.

Then, suddenly, everything changes. Dangerous smugglers are on the


Everything in Helena's life is in perfect order. The daughter of magistrate Lord Roseby, she has a comfortable home on a grand estate, and with the help of her best friend, Jamie the stable boy, she is able to secretly ride her father's powerful horses -- without the confines of a sidesaddle.

Then, suddenly, everything changes. Dangerous smugglers are on the loose in Helena's quiet village. And Helena's father brings home a mysterious and beautiful new stallion. Helena's world is suddenly turned upside down, and becomes more exciting than she ever could have imagined.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Helena, daughter of the magistrate, is no stranger to secret plans. She has been taking her father's powerful horses for rides for months without a sidesaddle, despite her parent's wishes. When she stumbles across smugglers during a late-night ride, Helena's eyes are opened to an underground world she never knew existed. Her best friend, Jamie the stableboy, is involved with the smugglers and cautions Helena that she must never tell what she knows about the operation. After realizing that the smugglers are not evil men, but ordinary people trying to make a living, Helena is determined that they remain undiscovered. This larger conflict is paralleled by Helena's efforts to convince her parents that the spirited new horse is a good animal in need of some training. This combination of horse story, historical novel, and mystery works very well. Helena is rather spirited and independent for an upper-class girl of the eighteenth century, but her interactions with other people does not stray too far into the realm of historical inaccuracy. 2004, HarperCollins, and Ages 10 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
This IS an epic horse story and will thrill readers who yearn for another Black Stallion. The setting is the southern coast of England (smugglers!) in 1740 and the heroine is Helena, a young woman of the gentry whose family has a stable of fine horses, including a wild new stallion named Oriel. Helena is a skilled rider, of course, and her best friend is Jamie, who works in the stables and grew up with her. The two conspire to work with Oriel in the middle of the night to get him trained. These nighttime activities have consequences: Helena discovers that Jamie and his father are involved in local smuggling, and Helena's father is a local magistrate responsible for upholding the law. She has a bit of a dilemma until she learns just how complicated it is: unreasonable taxes, extra income for local villagers, etc. There are several opportunities in this exciting story for Helena to race about on the cliffs and beaches in the night on horseback, disguised as a boy, warning her friends the smugglers when the king's men are prowling about. One stormy night, really bad smugglers (wreckers) are about—strangers—who plan to trick a ship onto the cliffs so they can kill the sailors and take the goods. Helena rides the marvelous Oriel to relight the fire to warn the ship. Anyone who loves good horse stories will enjoy this excitement, and Helena's worries about right and wrong add some depth. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, HarperCollins, 305p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
Fifteen-year-old Helena Roseby has a close-to-perfect life on her father's estate. An accomplished horsewoman, she rides almost daily with childhood friend and stable boy Jamie, has servants for her every whim, and school lessons that consist mainly of reading Robinson Crusoe with her tutor. Everything changes when she learns that Jamie, his father, and other men of the village are smugglers, bringing ashore stolen goods to avoid horrendously high taxes. Although sympathetic to their cause, Helena fears for their arrests and possible death sentences when a zealous new customs officer arrives. She is distracted by her father's new horse, the beautifully wild and impossibly fast Oriel. Helena is determined to keep him and secretly rides him without her father's permission, galloping out one stormy night to warn Jamie and the others. The evening before the annual horse race, the Rosebys discover each other's secrets: She is the furtive rider, and her father is the mysterious source of the smugglers' funding. Jamie rides Oriel to a predictable victory resulting in a secure future for the horse. Despite a lot of riding, there is not much other action in a tale written to attract horse lovers. The author's background as a rider and farm girl results in an authentic portrayal of tomboyish, good-hearted Helena. Details of daily life in the England of 1740 are realistically, if somewhat optimistically depicted, with an upbeat ending for all when the customs officer turns a blind eye to the criminal actions of the villagers. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10to 12). 2004, HarperCollins, 305p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Pam Carlson
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Lady Helena, 15, is a talented horsewoman and secret trainer of her father's prize-winning horse. When her father wins high-spirited Oriel in a bet, he threatens to sell him for fear he can't be tamed. Helena immediately sets out to prove the man wrong with the help of her best friend and stable boy, Jamie. While on a midnight ride, Helena discovers that Jamie is involved with a local smuggling ring but chooses to deny her upbringing and keep his secret. Then, when murderous wreckers begin taking the lives of local seamen, Helen, with the help of Oriel, risks her own life and Jamie's exposure to help capture the wreckers and prove that Oriel is indeed an animal to be trusted. This novel is reminiscent of Black Beauty and National Velvet, but adds a parallel story line about 18th-century England's politics, class structure, and judicial system. However, this tale is not weighed down under the overlapping themes but instead shines as a fast-paced tale appealing to readers with diverse interests.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An archetype of children's horse literature is the child (abused/ignored/misunderstood, preferably also an orphan) who rescues and tames the untamable horse (abused/misunderstood/ignored) and by doing so achieves glory. Such genuine treasures as Misty of Chincoteague, National Velvet, and King of the Wind use this plot-and, unfortunately, so do many lesser works, including this one. The subtitle, "An Epic Horse Story," is barely warning enough for the overstrained breathless incredulity that follows. Fifteen-year-old Lady Helena, awash in fine horses from her father's stables, casts one glance over an underfed stallion and immediately, impossibly, decides to risk everything to save him. The horse begins to trust her within minutes. Throw in some smugglers, a few villagers, and a trusty stable lad, and you've got yourself a tale that quite a few readers will like, but shouldn't. (Fiction. 10-15)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.64(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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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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Rider in the Dark: An Epic Horse Story 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
What started as an interesting horse story for me, ended in an thrilling tale I wanted to read again. Helena is a girl who lives in Dorset, England in 1740. Her daily life usually consists of riding horses, and lately, everyone is preparing for the local Bridport horse race. There's a new addition to her family's stables... Oriel, a horse she can't stay away from, even though he is unbroken and dangerous. Her main goal is to prove to everyone that Oriel is not as wild as he seems... and she will take great risks to show this. Her father is the leader in their quaint village, and even though Roseby is a small place, it has plenty of crimes taking place. The two most repeated criminals throughout the book are the smugglers (villagers who collect ship cargo without paying taxes) and the wreckers (villagers who deliberately crash a ship, murder the sailors, and steal the cargo). Although the wreckers are notably worse, smugglers are punished on the same level. Lady Helena never gave much thought to these criminals until she discovers that the people she trusts the best are involved. She doesn't want to lose these friends to the death penalty, so what is there to do?