Book Review: The Black Stallion and The Shapeshifter by Steven Farley

Alec and the Black’s latest adventure takes them to Ireland, where the Black has a chance to once again prove his brilliance as a racehorse. Then an injury forces them to prolong their stay. When a girl, Mora, finds a pony wandering the beach, Alec and the stallion are drawn into a mystery involving a kelpie. At first, he dismisses the tales about these shape-shifters but when Mora disappears, his search for her leads him and the horse into a deadly struggle to save her from this legendary creature. This is a carefully crafted novel, with Irish legend and daily life woven throughout. The suspense builds slowly but steadily. The lightly drawn characters support the story line, and Mora is typical of many girls whose greatest wish is to have a horse of their own. Devoted fans of the series will enjoy this latest adventure with a supernatural twist.

Steven Farley has taken his father’s beloved characters, Alec Ramsey and the Black, and edged them skillfully into the world of Irish legend, confronting a determined and sinister Kelpie foe. Mr. Farley has brought a smooth and engaging writing style to the task, for me delightfully reminiscent of his father’s work, so dear to my childhood. His Irish coastal scenery, evocation of dread and awe, and his character consistency are admirable. The 9 to14 year-old-age range touted by the sales blurb is accurate. Unfortunately, an obvious lack of proof-reading and continuity mar this otherwise engaging reemergence of old friends. There are a number of distracting errors a simple editing review should have eliminated, and the penultimate action sequence is almost unreadable, from a horseman’s standpoint. That reluctantly said, because this was otherwise a fine read, I definitely look forward to more by this promising writer and hope that Random House will pay more attention to detail next time.

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