Okay, first off, if you can’t tell by the cover, this is a horse book.

Which is perfectly fine, and has a great literary tradition, though I never went through a horse phase. (Being a guy might have something to do with it, but then I never went through a dinosaur phase either.)

However, it’s needful to mention that this is a fantasy horse book, though not with particularly fantasy horses. No, we have some interesting bits of world-building with a vaguely 19-century kind of country (to judge by the bits of high society seen), and trains and automobiles, and things like horses are exiled to beyond the wall to keep people safe from the diseases they carry….

And then our main character gets punted to across the wall, and there’s a well-done sequence of ‘everything you know is wrong’.

And that’s where the general problems start creeping in like ivy wrapped around the foundations of the book. Notably, the world-building feels unfinished. There’s more to the iceberg than what we’re seeing, but possibly not enough to keep it all afloat. Notably for me, the two countries involved in the history here feel like they’re in a vacuum, with no mention of the rest of the world. This wouldn’t feel so glaring if it wasn’t for the fact that the back-story of the land starts with an overseas invasion from… somewhere we have zero information about.

Now, with where that goes, we are touching on colonialism in a children’s book. Holy cow. In fact, the entire second half of the book gets a bit more ‘adult’ than might be expected, though firmly in ways still generally appropriate for the age range.

The final plot sequence makes for an exciting adventure and a lot of momentum in reading through, but there are weaknesses caused by a lack of depth. There’s a revelation that suitably shocking for the main character, but we don’t get a well-rounded enough motive for it to really dig in. I have hopes that the further books will develop things from a fairly sudden ending successfully, because there’s enough here, I want to see it expanded upon. However, it doesn’t even come close to changing my go-to recommendation from Dragon Slippers for Jessica Day George books.