I haven’t read any pony books for a while, because I’d lost my pony book mojo for a couple of months, and I’m glad I read this book as my first essay back into the pony world. Amanda Wills’ Into the Storm, I have to say, I’d have enjoyed whether it had been about ponies or dustbins. It’s exciting, dramatic, and an excellent answer to the question of what do you do with your characters when they’ve had two home-based adventures – you plonk them somewhere totally new and see what happens.
Amanda Wills has spirited Poppy away from Devon in this third of the Riverdale ponies series. Poppy has won a riding holiday in a competition with her short story about a Connemara, and she and best friend Scarlett are about to leave when the book opens. Poppy is desolate at the thought of being without her beloved Connemara, Cloud, and things don’t improve when they get to Oaklands Trekking Centre. Poppy tries her best to overcome her shyness with the other trekkers, but it doesn’t really work. She thinks that because she won the writing competition to get here, she’ll have a fantastic horse, but what does she end up with? Solid, hairy piebald cob Beau, that’s what. Everyone else has dream ponies – grey Arab mares; floaty palominos.
It’s not fair. That’s what Poppy thinks. Neither is it fair that tall and glamorous Cally seems to hit it off with Scarlett. Nobody seems to think very much of Poppy. Beau isn’t interested in being a willing co-operator, and Poppy’s always at the back of the ride, always the one people are waiting for, and the one people have to pick up off the floor when it all goes wrong. Poppy couldn’t be more fed up. This isn’t how things should be.
Amanda Wills does a brilliant job of showing someone who has what my grandmother would call a real mardy fit on. Poppy has painted herself into a corner. How she gets out again makes an excellent story. Amanda Wills does friendship spats extremely well, and best of all, she lets you see both points of view.
I enjoyed this story more than book two (and I liked that very much). It’s neatly plotted, wryly amusing, and full of those moments that anyone who’s had anything to do with ponies will recognise – the failure to travel those few centimetres that would make opening the gate easy, and the casual plonking of a hoof on your fragile foot. The drama when the storm hits Oaklands is thoroughly gripping. I do like a story that moves its participants on; where they’ve realised something about themselves, or the way life works, and when, as here, when it’s done by a subtle and effective writer it’s a real treat.
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Amanda Wills: Into the Storm
Age of main character: 12
Themes: jealousy, friendship issues, violent storms