Night of the Red Horse by Patricia Leitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There’s a point in the Jinny books where they step up into a whole new gear, and I rather suspect that it’s here. The Night Of The Red Horse picks up the themes that have been within the series and flips them all over and over again and sees what happens. It results in something that’s part pony story but part supernatural-timeslip-spooky-Other, and it’s all the more spectacular for it.
But let me step back a little and talk about the series as a whole. Jinny Manders is twelve years old, and due to circumstance, her family now lives in Finmory House in Scotland where the landscape comes to function as practically another character within the books. The first book in the series For Love of a Horse tells of how Shantih – a chestnut Arab – comes into Jinny’s life, and the two of them are inseparable from that book onwards. There are not many authors who get that desperate urge of the young girl for the universe to just help her out by giving her a horse, but Patricia Leitch gets it.
Night Of The Red Horse is the fourth book in the series and in it, Jinny is required to deal with something strange. A mural of a Red Horse in her room haunts her dreams, and she’s starting to experience things that she cannot understand in her everyday life. It looks like the archaeological dig over the moors may be connected – but how?
It sounds unusual, because it is. Leitch weaves in elements from Celtic legends and the Epona myth in particular. Jinny finds herself with one foot in the present and one in the past, and as she navigates the circumstances she finds herself in, Leitch does not skimp on the atomosphere of the moment. Seriously, there are parts of this that very much unnerved me as a younger reader and even now, I can feel their power.
(Also, upon rereading, certain of the spookier elements reminded me very much of Marianne Marianne Dreams and that might be an interesting reading to pair this with).
In many ways, this book is like a little capsule of everything that’s perfect about good children’s books. It gives you something strange, something beautiful, and something that makes your heart ache with longing, all of that, all at once.
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