December 31, 2010

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Verity Grey is thrilled to be asked to join archaeologist Peter Quinnell's dig in the Scottish borders, but after her first day she isn't so sure. Quinnell, having spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion, is convinced he's finally found it - not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has seen a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades. The worst thing is that Verity believes in Peter, and the boy, and even in the Sentinel, who seems determined to become her own protector...but from what?

I know there are quite a few Susanna Kearsley fans out there...and I am one of them! Not only is she a fantastic writer but she is a fellow Canadian - its great to support a talented writer from your own country. A Susanna Kearsley book always reemphasizes for me why I love reading and why quality writing always wins out over filler and flash. Instead of focusing this post on reviewing The Shadowy Horses though, I am going to discuss more why I love Susanna Kearsley and highly recommend this author!

For me, what elevates Susanna Kearsley's novels is the development of the setting and the characters. Locations have related historical events and even though there are a variety of characters in her novels they are distinct from each other and well rounded. Kearsley lets the quality of her writing speak for itself, with wonderful descriptive language, historical detail, sparkling and sharp dialogue - not one word is superfluous to the story. Chapters rarely end with cliffhangers...though there is mystery enough. There is no race to the finish with the plot but a slow build to a satisfying conclusion. You really need to think about all possible motivations to determine the antagonizing force in the story. Ghostly or supernatural elements are interwoven into the storyline - often the protagonist relives a past life, or encountering ghosts or experiencing strange events. Another reason why Kearsley's novels are so great, is that the female protagonists lead independent, interesting and creative lifestyles, with careers such as painter, writer, archeologist, etc.  Kearsley's stories can be appreciated by adult and young adult readers alike.

The Shadowy Horses, specifically, is a smoothly paced book. Verity Grey is an intelligent and stubborn woman, an archeologist herself, helping another renowned and reclusive archeologist explore for evidence of the Ninth Roman Legion at an estate called Rosehill but someone...or meddling and strange incidents and coincidences occur. Though the formula for The Shadowy Horses is similar to Mariana and The Winter Sea, the setting and characters are completely different and I found all the related history to the Ninth Roman Legion fascinating.  Coincidentally I recently watched the movie Centurion, which explores another take on the Ninth Roman Legion and I recommend it to fans of the historical action/adventure movie genre. Another upcoming movie about the same Legion is The Eagle to be released February 25, 2011.
So now I have now read The Winter Sea, Mariana and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley (but have not written reviews for the previous two novels).  Kearsley also writes mysteries under the pseudonym of Emma Cole.  Every Secret Thing, originally written under the Emma Cole pen name, has been recently released under Susanna Kearsley and is on its way into my mailbox. I look forward to reading it and collecting this author's back list.

My Rating: 5.0