May 26, 2008

Battlecry: give him a kiss and he'll kick you in the teeth.

Battlecry Forever
by Joanna Campbell
Published: 1992
Republished: 1998, 2007

I've been curious about the new edition of Battlecry Forever for a while now, so when I got it from the library I made sure to get the 2007 copy published through Stabenfeldt and printed in, of all places, Germany. It also has a new cover, which I have provided.

This is what we're used to. The old Paul Casale oil painting of the big black horse being ridden by someone who can't possibly be 5'3" and looks like she might teeter right off and into the water at any second. Frankly, I always loved everything about this cover besides the girl. She looks like she has just about as much experience as a friend of mine who once tried to ride a horse like she was sitting in a lounge chair.

Anyway, moving on to 2007...

New cover art provided by one Jennifer Bell. I have yet to discover the reason behind the new artwork, but I'm assuming it must have been a copyright issue considering how similar the covers are. Honestly, I almost like the new one better as the girl is at least attempting to ride the horse in a manner a racing thoroughbred would be ridden. I also like her outfit about 100% more than the horrible early nineties attire and cowboy boots (please, this takes place on Long Island) in the original cover.

15-year-old Leslie can have any horse she wants; her parents own stables where they train retired Thoroughbred racers to become pleasure horses. But the only horse Leslie wants is Battlcry [sic], a racer everyone else has given up on. "He's wild... untrainable," they tell her.

Leslie knows Battlecry is so much more than that. Beneath his unpredictable behavior is a spirited horse that would give his all to win races again -- for Leslie.

Finally Leslie's parents give Battlecry a chance to prove his worth. Leslie doesn't know that by entering him in a race, she'll risk losing him forever...
Yes, it would tell you the production quality of this company when they've got typos in their back cover summaries; there are typos in the text as well.

Here's the original summary:

"Battlecry is a loser."

Fifteen-year-old Leslie D'Andrea can have any horse she wants—her parents own stables where they train retired Thoroughbreds to become pleasure riders. But the only horse Leslie wants is Battlecry, a racer everyone else has given up on as wild and untrainable.

Leslie knows Battlecry is something more. Beneath his unpredictable behavior is a spirited horse who would give his all to win races again—for her.

Finally Leslie's parents give Battlecry a chance to prove his worth. Leslie doesn't know that by entering Battlecry in a race, she'll risk losing him forever...

So, plot wise? This one is pretty well done. Leslie D'Andrea lives on Long Island, almost right on the beach (hence our two covers), at D'Andrea Farm. The farm is unique in that it's a not-for-profit rescue operation on top of a thoroughbred training facility (not to mention an accidental breeding farm, but we'll get to that in a second). The book opens up at an auction in New Jersey, where most of the horses are being sold off to slaughterhouses. Leslie's father is looking to buy a few horses for the rescue operation, and there's Battlecry. Leslie immediately goes for the horse, but her father is a tougher sell. Battlecry is a known terror among New York racing circles, coming in dead last in all his previous races. In a last minute bid, they win the horse at auction for just over $400 and take him home to Long Island, where he's initially planned for gelding and retraining as a jumper, but mainly is interested in mares and proceeds to get three of them in foal by accident.

But, being in general a very blonde, blue-eyed version of Ashleigh Griffen, Leslie halts these plans in their tracks when it becomes apparent that Battlecry has some racing talent buried deep down. Leslie convinces her father to give her two months to turn the stallion around, and she manages to successfully train Battlecry to the point where he's able to race. His first time out in a maiden race he circles the field and sets a new track record (of course) and then he does it again in an allowance race at Belmont Park. So, two track records broken everyone starts to think big time. They enter him in the Nassau County Handicap at the suggestion of Nick Bates, who's been Battlecry's number one fan behind Leslie, and he races off to win and equal the track record. All of this, naturally, without the aid of a crop.

Then we have our two stumbling points in the story. The first is easily overcome: some famous racing family wants to buy Battlecry for $500,000. Nick Bates says no way. Leslie says no way. Leslie's mom says no way. So they don't accept the offer. Battlecry stays! The second is more difficult: Battlecry has to be scratched before the New England Classic because he's such a jerk in the gate that he injures himself.

Meanwhile, Leslie is having some friendship drama with Kim, who's off fraternizing with a college drop out. When it becomes obvious that the guy is a jerk who's mentally abused her and treated their relationship as an open one when Kim thought it was exclusive, Kim whips up to Leslie's house in her Jeep (obviously it's a Jeep, this is a Joanna Campbell book) and winds up getting into a shouting match because Kim is still disillusioned and Leslie is bitter because she's nearly lost her friend. They patch this up pretty quickly around the end of the book. ANYWAY.

Battlecry wins the Iselin Handicap, only he comes out of it exhausted and feverish. So he's all boring and blah for several weeks before he perks up again. Then they supplement him into the Breeders' Cup Classic and he wins that, only winds up collapsing after the race after a massive coronary drops him dead. I remember being devastated about this when I was eleven, so I'll give the book extra points for my very vivid memories of sobbing my eyes out and wishing I'd never read it.

Then the first of Battlecry's few babies is born -- Son of Battle, who is born in late December, and thus would have his entire racing career screwed unless Leslie's parents hid the foal's actual birth date from the Jockey Club. Although Leslie is somewhat happy again at the birth of the foal, so the book ends on a good note.

  • There is no antagonist in this book, although with Battlecry's antics I don't think one was really needed.
  • However, because there is no antagonist in the book, there is no serious second plotline. So the book is fairly dull. Battlecry is retrained, Battlecry wins the races he's entered in, Battlecry dies. Yay, suspense!
  • I really love Leslie's dad. He's just about the most realistic character Joanna Campbell ever wrote, despite his preference for saying "gee" in a serious context.
  • Again with the refusal to use a crop. Obviously it's more impressive for horses to win because they're encouraged with only a hand ride, but when does this ever happen consistently?
  • Two broken track records, and one equaled track record out of five starts. I don't think any more needs to be said.
  • I really love Battlecry's attitude. Out of all the horses Joanna Campbell ever wrote, she finally got a racehorse's most common personality right: absolute, priceless arrogance with no patience for sentimentality.
I always expected a sequel to this book featuring Son of Battle, but instead we got the crossover in Ashleigh's Dream, which is unfortunate because Leslie is probably a stronger character than Ashleigh & Co. In fact, if Battlecry Forever had been a series I definitely would have been obsessed with it and I probably would have wanted to see a whole lot more of Nick Bates.

Thus ends, like, the third or fourth review of the day.


Claire said...

Man, I totally forgot that the TB series, or I guess a TB series related book, had a blond-haired, blue eyed protagonist that wasn't Cindy or Mel, though I think they both had brown eyes. Usually those girls are a step away from Satan.

Kudos on the review. Well-written. Can't wait to see your take on Star of Shadowbrook Farm.

Anonymous said...

oh man, i loved this book. i really don't think i can say anything bad about it.

Mara said...

i really don't think i can say anything bad about it.

The book was remarkably devoid of anything crazy. Leslie's training ideas with Battlecry even made sense, which after all of Cindy's theories was a nice change.

Ana said...

Isn't it mentioned in the original series that Fleet Goddess is one of the three Battlecry foals? At least, I remember finding some vague mention of him in one of the books.

KayBee said...

Yeah, you're right, Ana. Fleet Goddess is by Battlecry and out of Miss Tess by Indian God, if I remember correctly.
P.S. - Does anyone know if Joanna ever actually named Battlecry's third foal? Or mentioned him/her at all?