May 25, 2008

Look Out Champion, it's the Most Beautiful Horse in the World.

The Most Beautiful Horse in the World
Written "In the Tradition of the Thoroughbred Series."
Diane Redmond
Originally Published: 1994

So for my first entry I didn't want to step on any toes, and Mara's jaunt reading Joanna's non-TB books instilled within me the desire to reread all the books written "in the tradition of" the TB series. For those of you not familiar with this obviously genius concept, Harper Collins decided to capitalize on what must have been TB's rampant popularity by publishing a series of books about young girls and their faithful steeds under an imprint that might bring more business by association. I guess it worked, because as a young girl between the ages of 8 and 12 I was hard-pressed to collect all of these books. Some of them were actually written by Campbell herself, and those were the better ones, by and large. Most of them were kind of crappy, but one, The Most Beautiful Horse in the World, was actually pretty good.

Cover: Here we have our heroine, Cara, and her equine hero, Lucas. Seeing as Lucas is described as a half Arabian, Half-Irish Draft Horse, I have no idea how accurate this picture is. I guess he's pretty awesome looking, though I don't know about most beautiful. Cara's outfit has always confused me though. I guess the sweater is all right, but I'm not feeling the t-shirt underneath. Anyway, when I said I liked this book, I meant it. You can tell from this cover picture that my copy is pretty worn because I had to scan my copy for the blog, seeing as I could find no other picture of it on the internet. For shame.

A horse of her own...
Cara Zol is crazy about horses, but she knows she'll never be able to afford one of her own. So it's a dream come true when she's hired to take care of Lucas, a beautiful half-Arabian, half-Irish draft horse. Lucas's owner is about to leave for college, and the horse is in need of a groom and rider.

Before long, Cara starts bringing home trophies and ribbons; it's clear she and Lucas make a winning combination. Then Lucas's owner loses interest in horses and she sells Lucas to spiteful Vanessa Deneuve, Cara's worst enemy. Vanessa forbids Cara even to ride Lucas. But it's clear to Cara that Vanessa doesn't care for Lucas either. Is she about to lose the best thing that's ever happened to her?
Plot: The blurb is mostly accurate except for a few points. Thirteen-year-old Cara is an amazing rider, but she knows she can't advance very far in her competitive career without a horse of her own. Unfortunately, her parents, who live in rural Shannon, Virginia and work as a secretary and mechanic respectively, can't afford to buy Cara horse. This is just so tragic, but I will state now that Cara is as anti-Cindy as you can get for an adolescent wonder-rider. She complains that she can't her own horse, but seems to have accepted that her parents just can't afford it. Cindy, as we all know, would pee on her parents bed if she was denied such a thing.

Fortunately for Cara, however, her riding instructor, a crusty trainer with a heart of chocolate, a la Charlie Burke, named Eleanor Pryzelomski (known familiarly as Ms. P, because her last name isn't a real word) knows Cara is a star and brings her talents to her parents' attention. After that they become determined to get Cara the horse they can't afford, and Mrs. Zol convinces her millionaire boss to let Cara ride her daughter's decorated show jumper, Lucas, while Stephanie (the daughter) goes off to college in California.

Everything goes great. Cara loves Lucas, Lucas loves Cara, Ms. P loves Lucas and Cara, they go to shows and Cara wins classes and loves riding Lucas so much that she doesn't even care if she loses! See, I told you she was the anti-Cindy. But then Lucas's owner decides she likes boys more than horses, and sells Lucas to the evil Deneuves. Here the story becomes interesting because we are treated to a rich female antagonist that makes Lavinia look like the pathetic attempt at evil that she is. Vanessa Deneuve is hardcore, and if you don't watch it she will cut you. Seriously.

Ms. Deneuve has bought Lucas, a high class show jumper, so that she can teach her two reluctant/bitchy daughters how to ride horses because she wants to make a good impression on Virginia's ritzy show-jumping set. She's forced her kids to move to rural Virginia from Washington, DC because her boyfriend, who still lives in DC might I add, thinks it will be good for them. Sophie, who is of course fat and ugly, is the nice daughter, though she is afraid of Lucas and misses her real father, still in DC. But Vanessa is furious at the move, especially because she had to leave a boyfriend in the city (are you sensing the trend of women incapable of thinking for themselves if a man is involved here?) and sets out to make Cara's life a living hell.

Despite this, Cara gets hired as a stable hand and keeps showing Lucas and winning. Vanessa becomes increasingly devious in her attacks, which range from threatening to punch Lucas in the face, to cracking a riding whip at Cara meancingly, to chopping off Lucas's mane, burning his leg wraps, and also burning all the poles and bords from every jump on the property. Her mother, just like Mr. Townsend, does nothing. So Cara, being the anti-Cindy, decides that continuing to ride Lucas would be selfish because it's endangering him. She decides to quit after the big "final" show in DC, but unfortunately for her after she wins her class Vanessa spooks Lucas, who throws Cara. She slams her head into a jump and gets a concussion, at which point Ms. Deneuve decides Cara probably shouldn't be around Lucas any more, which is the perfect alternative to disciplining or committing her child.

After that, Cara goes home and mopes emoishly about Lucas. Driven insane with longing, she sneaks back to the property to visit the horse, only to discover he's skin and bones! What can she do? Nothing apparently, because no one in this part of Virginia has ever heard that you can call the police if can animal is being starved. Then Vanessa has a riding accident and breaks her arm, and Ms. Deneuve is finally convinced that maybe she should sell the horse. Despite the fact that Cara's family is poor, they somehow manage to scrape enough money together to buy Lucas for Cara, and they are together for ever. Huzzah!

Points of interest:
  • Ms. P, to prove how bad ass she is, constantly whacks things such as riding boots, door posts, etc. with her riding crop. I feel like that's probably a bad thing to do around horses, don't you?
  • Something that really bugs me here: Cara takes the bus after school to both farms Lucas is stabled at in the book. Why are buses in these books always so willing to drop kids off at the farms they ride at? If she's using public transportation I completely don't buy it. In rural Virginia there is no public transportation that is not a school bus. Trust me.
  • Lucas's groom, Joseph, apparently kicks ass at geometry because "even the manure pile was a perfect pyramid shape."
  • Why must a horse being able to guess which carrot a hand is in always be a measure of genius? Cara likes to play a game with Lucas where she holds up her closed fists in front of him and makes him guess which hand the carrot is in. Magically, he always gets it right, which must mean that he is "the smartest horse in all of Virginia." Well, maybe he has the best sense of smell, but I don't know about the smart thing. Maybe if he is the one making the manure pile a perfect pyramid I'd find that impressive.
  • Though Ms. P rarely gives compliments, she compliments Cara and/or Lucas at least once every time she is in a scene in the book.
  • Lucas's show name is Erin's Luck. Who's Erin?
  • At one point Cara's friend, Tansy (what is with all these names, really? Redmond and Bentley should have a contest) tells Cara that Stephanie, Lucas's owner, will probably come back from California eventually because Virginia is "neat." That made me really suspicious because I know from personal experience that no one would come back to Virginia if they could live in California. Of course, the author is from England, so she has no idea what she is talking about.
  • Holy crap. Cara actually acknowledges that it's probably a coincidence when Lucas bobs his head at an opportune moment as if he was nodding, despite him being a genius. Man, she is the anti-Cindy.
  • The introduction to the the Deneuves is classic TB-inspired dreck - Mrs. Deneuve is blond, rich, and totters down to the stables in two inch high heels. Lavinia, eat your heart out. But it's elder daughter Vanessa who really is evil incarnate. She's an arsonist for chrissake.
  • Okay, I think there are problems with character development here. I don't understand why My. Roberts would be so concerned about Lucas that he'd let Cara bump around on him free of charge, and yet would sell him to obviously incompetent idiots like the Deneuves.
  • Watch out Cindy, Cara has super powers too: "Cara knew exactly where Lucas was. She could sense him before she saw him, like a perfume on a breeze."
  • Okay, I have to say it again. Every woman in this book except for Ms. P, who is probably a lesbian, let's the man in her life think for her and goes crazy if she can't be around him. Oh, except for Cara, who lets Lucas drive her crazy and rule her life. And even though he has no balls, he does still have a penis, which I guess makes it the same thing.
  • Cara has this strange proclivity for galloping Lucas out before every class she rides in at a show. How does he not pass out?
  • I'm sorry Ms. Redmond, but nowhere in Washington, DC is there a huge outdoor show ground. Maybe in Middleberg, but that is about as close as you are going to get and that is at least 45 minutes away.
  • While sleeping in the barn does occur in this book, Cara is sensible enough to do it in the tack room. She's also doing it for a sensible reason: Vanessa is clearly insane and probably wouldn't hesitate to stab Lucas in the eye.
  • Once again, unlike Cindy, when her friends and family call Cara out on being unrealistic, she not only accepts it, but changes her behavior.
  • At the end of the book, after Cara stops riding Lucas, the horse turns to skin and bones, but apparently there is nothing anyone can do because Cara is not allowed to go back to the Deneuves. Um...what ever happened to the ASPCA?
  • Unfortunately, Cara does seem to have something in common with Cindy: she is the key to keeping Lucas healthy. After returning to her care, he recovers completely in two weeks.
I will leave you with the knowledge that in this book the horse is the Mary Sue. Cara is of course a super amazing rider, but the books is filled with passages describing the long, physically painful work she puts into becoming such a good rider. More over, she's been riding for years. She even loses sometimes. But Lucas never makes mistakes, has the ability to see through flesh and bone, is the most beautiful horse in the entire world, and at one point Cara even decides he's related to Pegasus. It turns out that Diane Redmond owns a horse named Lucas of the same breed and probably same color. I rest my case.


Mara said...

God, that perfect pyramid of manure bit just cracked me up. But I must admit I'm shocked...shocked!...that Cara admits that Lucas's every head bob and throaty nicker isn't actually him attempting to converse with her. If I have to read that Champion is agreeing with a head bob or trying to agree or tell her something one more time I am going to scream.

Lei said...

Har har har. You just know Lucas is giving Cara a good ride. Reminds me of the dirty jokes about horse riders. *snicker*

Oh, and the carrot thing. Piece of cake. Mitch figured that out long ago.

Monique said...

I like this book... it definately was one of the better ones! Tell me you have If Wishes Were Horses! That will be a shit funny review...

Claire said...

if wishes were horses is definitely my project for today. don't worry ladies, i have all of them.

Anonymous said...

zomg, a horse book i haven't read!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book as a kid. I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere. If not, I'll have to buy a copy.

Lucas looked so pretty on the cover.

It took me years to figure out how to pronounce Vanessa's last name. My brain always mangled it into something like "den-uh-view." She was a pretty badass villainess.

I've wanted to know who the fuck Erin is ever since I read the book for the first time. IT STILL BOTHERS ME!

Even though Lucas was a total Mare-y Sue (see what I did there lol), I loved him anyway. And I know if I were to base a character off of my Alf it'd probably turn out similarly. (Only besides being the most awesome jumper I've ever seen, the smartest and sweetest and most willing horse I've ever met and the prettiest horse in the world, he also had a wicked sense of humor, was a drama queen and a total attention whore. Best horse ever.)

Anonymous said...

"Erin" is a word meaning Ireland...since Lucas is half-irish or whatever it would mean irish luck... i remember reading this book and wondering why the horse was a god.oh, and why the horses i rode weren't like him!