ARC Review: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd


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There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Some reviews take a while to write, not because the book was a struggle, but because there’s too much to say too soon and it wouldn’t do the book justice to spit out a review for the sake of time constraints. This review has been a long time coming and hopefully worth the wait. 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is a Middle Grade book. The last time I’d read one of those was probably when I was MG age…apart from Harry Potter, of course. But when I saw Megan Shepard, I had to have it-she’s one of my go-to authors.

Don’t be scared of the MG label, this book is stunning, truly and utterly beautiful, whimsical, and full of this dazzling hope in a world of tragedy. 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill will enchant and bewitch you. You know that giddy, magical feeling you get when you feel something wonderful is on the verge of happening? The entire book is made of that feeling. If you love The Chronicles of Narnia, Bridge to Terabithia, The Golden Compass, or even Spiderwick add this to your TBR stat.

The horses are like a secret-glorious and majestic, they flit through the mirrors playful and observant, taking sneaky sips of tea or peaking around corners. Curiosity and anticipation reign as Emmaline scrambles to uncover their true purpose and convince the rest of the too serious children that they are hiding in reflections, just out of sight. Who are they, why are they in the mirrors? Questions will plague you and keep you guessing as the mystery and an epic quest pops up. 

Megan Shepard is insanely skilled at blurring the lines between historical and fantasy. The world is seamless and fits so well together it’s crazy because it really shouldn’t. There’s a World War going on, bombs are on the horizon, and the children grow more sick everyday. These are real circumstances that actually happened and if you’re into history you’ll feel that hunger to learn and research. Read the notes at the end, it’s fascinating. 

Emmaline is adorable. She’s suffered so much, lived through horrific events, and yet, that childish wonder is stronger than ever. She can be spiteful, she can be mean, but she has so much heart and this multidimensional personality makes her all the more real. 

Friendship, loss, and hope when all seems lost and the world is fading as the darkness of death closes in-that’s what this story is truly about. Magic is found in the darkest of places and the bleakest of times. I don’t have children, but when I do, I definitely plan on reading this with them.

Some parts were a little predictable, but overall it was certainly an adventure. 

The cover. OMG. Seriously, I’m taking down that name because it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Magical reading, 

Jordan

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