Spirit Horses by Alan. S. Evans

Synopsis from Amazon:

In the hills of Tennessee, Shane Carson, a gifted, nationally-recognized horseman, is living the good life. When a mysterious mustang shows up on his farm, Shane doesn’t know how–or why–the horse appeared, but the horse’s distinctive brand identifies her. She is one of the Spirit Horses, a rare, wild herd that runs free on the Shoshone reservation in Wyoming. Watched over for centuries in the tribe’s ancestral valleys, these exquisite horses, according to belief, provide a link to the afterlife.When tragedy strikes in his life, Shane nearly loses his will to live–but for one promise he made to his young son: to return the mustang to her rightful home.On this bittersweet journey, Shane finds a world where tradition reigns, and ancient beliefs transcend modern logic. In this magnificent expanse of blue sky and wide open spaces, love is alive, but hate, intolerance, and greed threaten to close in.To make good on his vow, Shane must face the danger that threatens these horses, the tribe’s legacy, and his destiny.

Spirit Horses is an accomplished first novel. It’s rare to find a new novel deeply involving horses or the lives of people who live around them, and it’s clear this book has been written from experience. The book starts off by taking some time to set a scene of an ideal life on a Tennessee ranch. At first I wasn’t entirely sure where this short account of several years of family life this was going, but when it becomes relevant in Chapter 4, I realised the full power of the writing up to that point. It’s deceptive, drawing the reader into a sense of such simple familiarity with these characters, only to have the harsh reality of life thrust upon you.

Perhaps the most engrossing aspect of the novel as a whole, then, is it’s ability to draw you into the world of its characters. You won’t see it coming, but as the story progresses you’ll suddenly find yourself feeling the anger, the happiness, the sheer determination of these characters. It moves along steadily, with the occasional shock to the system – a threat, an injury, a death. What this story does best is take a kind of life (and adventure) which most readers will never embark upon; and it layers that story with such credibility and moments of such real emotion that it’s impossible not to feel familiar with the peoples and places it portrays.

This is a different kind of fairytale. It’s very much the kind of story I can imagine members of the Shoshone telling their families. Not everything is happy, but in a way it all works out, and you can’t help but feel it’s the best possible outcome. The ending will have you in tears, but not because it’s sad or because it’s happy, but because of how it seems to be the most fitting culmination for the emotional aspect of the novel. More than anything, for me, this story was beautifully written portrayal of love in so many different veins. I promise you’ll close it’s covers with tears in your eyes, but a smile on your face.

8/10

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