Janet Rising: Prize Problems (Pony Whisperer 4)
Anyone reading my reviews must wonder if I ever, ever read anything I like. All four books reviewed so far this week have seen me griping and moaning. Well, hurrah for Janet Rising. The fourth book in the Pony Whisperer series arrived this week. Pia, I think, is the Jill Crewe de nos jours. She lives with her mother, and has a pony, Drum. The unusual thing about Pia is that she owns a statue of the goddess Epona. When she has the statue, she can hear what ponies say.
In episode three, Pia's friend Bean had entered a competition in Pony magazine, and with Pia's help, won. This book is the story of what happens on the riding holiday they win. It doesn't have a cast of thousands; the fantasy is low-key; the romance even more so: what Janet Rising is brilliant at is depicting the teenage girl and making it funny and believable. She has them absolutely right: there are two sisters, Amber and Zoe, who spend nearly all their time scrapping; nervous Grace, downtrodden by her extraordinarily pushy mother, and erratic Ellie, girl of mystery.
The seance rears its head again: an episode I read with rising panic as it seemed that it would actually appear this time (in Team Challenge it's made clear Pia and her friends are spooked by the whole thing) but it's headed off at the pass when it becomes clear that seances may be dealing with very real emotions.
The story is a thoroughly enjoyable gallop round a riding holiday: I liked the owner with her grey plaits (which are set on fire at the barbecue) and the glam instructor Annabelle with her endless endearments. I must admit to a tiny frisson of disappointment when Epona appeared. I had been so enjoying the interplay between the characters that I'd forgotten about the pony whispering. "Oh," I thought. ""Is this really necessary?" Well, bearing in mind the previous three books, I suppose it is, though I did wonder what might happen if the mysterious thief present on the holiday had whipped Epona. That was a momentary blip. Janet Rising's fantasy is always believable. I am always disappointed when I see I have nearly finished her books, and there are very few modern pony authors I can say that about.
I can't let this review go by without mentioning the cover. That's a 14.2 grey pony, Sprout, on the cover, that is.