Monday, 5 February 2018

Book Review - A Pony For Free by Jacqui Broderick


Set in the Connemara region of Ireland. Horse mad Cait spends her time looking after the brood mares of the wealthy Danny. She longs for a pony of her own but her Dad is crippled and the family are too poor to afford one. She is also somewhat scared of riding! When Danny buys the beautiful pony Drizzle for his unpleasant son Colm to ride, Cait is envious and she is sickened when Colm and his father try to break in the pony by breaking his spirit. However Drizzle is having none of it and after depositing Colm on the ground, gallops off into the depths of the Connemara hills. Danny is enraged with the horse and tells Cait she can have the pony for her own if she can catch him. Cait is overjoyed at this news but soon realises that catching a pony roaming free in the wilds of Connemara may be an impossible task. And even if she did somehow catch him, how would she train him and learn to ride him and could she even afford to keep him? She decides she will try anway....


This was a new book from an author relatively unknown on the pony book scene, so reading this was a complete leap in the dark. However I was very pleasantly surprised and can honestly say it's one of the best new pony stories around at the moment, certainly on a par with the more experienced and popular pony authors such as Amanda Wills. It is well written and the characters are interesting and believable. The story has a very traditional, if not even old-fashioned, feel to it. Perhaps the Irish country setting, which seems to hark back to an older, simpler existance to modern life, adds to this atmosphere. Also the beautiful Connemara backdrop and the lifestyles of the people in the village bring an originality and a divergence from the run of the mill modern pony story. The plot-line of catching a pony in order to keep it has been done before, most notably in Elinore Haver's A Pony to Catch, but not enough times to make it a cliche or stock plot-line.

In fact, though traditional in feel, this book takes its own original slant on the pony story. Unlike many modern pony stories we do not have the rich bratty girl riding her posh pony and looking down her nose at the heroine. Instead we have the boy Colm who is a truly awful, almost evil character. His bullying of Cait and his dreadful deeds take this into a darker more interesting territory than the usual rivalry story-line. In fact the author turns the rich snooty girl rival theme on its head by introducing Victoria, who although rich and having two expensive ponies to ride, becomes Cait's best friend.

As well as being a pony rescue story, and focusing closely on the bond between girl and pony, there is also a fair amount of the competition element in the book, which will suit those who like to have shows and competitions in their pony stories. Even this element seems a little different to the norm, due to the Irish jumping scene being slightly unfamilar to most readers, and also with Cait's initial reluctance to jump her pony at the shows. The author certainly packs a lot of varying content into her book, making it appeal to a wide range of tastes.

In short, you don't need to take a chance on a new author by choosing this book:  I'm sure that Jacqui Broderick, if she decides to write more books in the genre, is a great pony book author in the making. Highly recommended.


Read more and vote on the book here

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