Review: Angela Dorsey & Pippa Funnell

Pippa Funnell: Ask Pippa
Orion, £6.99
Pippa Funnell's website
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy

I've reviewed several of Pippa's Tilly's Pony Tails series. I've liked them, but said that I feel Pippa is strongest when writing about practical matters. This book plays to Pippa's strengths. It's organised into three sections: About Horses, About Riding, and About Pippa.  Each contains questions Pippa's been asked, and her answers. The questions vary between the real basics - Why is grooming necessary? to the more complex: "My horse is sometimes backward thinking. I can feel he is going to stop, but the more pressure I apply, the more he resists. What can I do to overcome this?"

There are always things you can learn about horses, and I certainly learned a lot from this book.  Pippa's answers are considered and put across well. Actually, it is full of gems. The description of having your legs "cuddling" the horse is one I hope will remain with me if I ever get back on a horse again.

This is the sort of book you're probably going to dip into, rather than read straight through, and there lies my one quibble with it. There's no index, and no subdivision of the questions, so if you remembered reading  a gem about lunging, you'd have to hunt through the whole riding section in order to find it.

I hope Pippa goes on to write more practical stuff. This one is very readable, and Pippa has the gift of striking the right note: authoritative but straightforward and approachable.

Angela Dorsey: Dark Fire, Desert Song, Condor Mountain
(Horse Guardian series 1-3, 2011)
Enchanted Pony Books, £6.99
Thanks to the author/publisher for sending me these books

Angela Dorsey's books were originally published by Stabenfeldt.  Their books could be bought only by members of their book clubs, but Stabenfeldt having now restricted operations and closed its US arm, the books are now available through Angela Dorsey's own publishing house.

The Horse Guardian books were originally published as the Horse Angel series. I freely admit I don't always take well to fantasy, and having an angelic, and presumably perfect, girl is a bit of a tall ask as far as character development goes, but I enjoyed these books; particularly once I'd got beyond book one. If you start at book one, Dark Fire, persevere. This book will jar to an English reader, as although set in England, much of the terminology is American: stalls for stables, grain for oats, and so on. Dark Fire is about Lisa, whose family have had to sell their manor house, and their horses, to a kindly man who has an evil and grasping nephew. He plots to kill his uncle and take over the estate, but is confounded by Lisa, working together with the horses and Angelica, the horse angel. The book establishes the formula used in all the books: narration shared in turn by the all-seeing narrator, Angelica, and the villain. At the end of the book, Angelica is "called" by another horse in trouble, which leads the reader neatly into the next in the series.

The plots in the next two books Desert Song and Condor Mountain, are much less far fetched, though still adventure-packed. Desert Song I particularly enjoyed, with its portrait of a girl rejected by her mother and sent from foster carer to foster carer until she can no longer believe that she will stay anywhere. This all fits in naturally with her decision to hide away an Arab mare in the desert, lest she be blamed for the mare being got in foal by a wild stallion. The character of Angelica is not sickly sweet: being an angel in a human world carries its own difficulties.

As good, escapist reads, with plenty of adventure, you could do a lot worse than these. I would never, in a month of Sundays, have thought of making a Condor the villain - well, not really the villain - Condors exist by eating meat and that's what these ones do - but Angela Dorsey has and made a success of it.


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