Nov 11, 2008

Karen, have we really come this far?

Horse of Seven Moons
by Karen Taschek (aka Bentley)
Published: 2005

I know we're all ridiculously eager to find out what Karen Bentley has been up to since her last Thoroughbred book went to print eleven years ago. I am here to inform you that Karen Bentley is now publishing books on bats and the universe in general. Next year, she's taking on the civil war.

No kidding.

I don't know what possessed me several weeks ago, but I discovered all of this and even went so far to find a photo of her...which I promptly lost. I was rather flummoxed by this strange bat, universe, civil war fixation, as this seems to be a rapid departure from her bitchy girl takes on the horse industry writing background. Only then I found Horse of Seven Moons and all my worries ceased.

Struggling up the mountainside in a fierce storm, sixteen-year-old Bin-daa-dee-nin tries to survive. The Mescalero Apache has lived off the land in southwestern New Mexico, hunting and raiding since the death of Apache leader Victorio last October 1880.

Just before dawn, under a full moon, Bin-daa-dee-nin finds a black-and-white horse whose intelligence and beauty surpass that of any horse he's ever seen. Bin-daa-dee-nin trains the surefooted pinto to run fast on command so that he can use him to hunt and on raids. But when the army attacks, the horse disappears.

Fourteen-year-old Sarah Chilton has never felt at home on her family's ranch in New Mexico near Cooke's Peak. At least, not the way she did in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where she lived until just four months ago. Then on Valentine's Day, 1881, Sarah finds the horse of her dreams: a gorgeous pinto, wandering near the river under a bright moon. She names him Moon Dancer and teaches him to jump. Just as she's making wonderful progress with Moon Dancer's training, the Apaches raid the ranch, and Bin-daa-dee-nin has his horse back.

Through army battles, Apache raids, and perhaps Moon Dancer's own mysterious desires, the horse changes hands between Sarah and Bin-daa-dee-nin several times. As each puzzles over the training and tricks the other has taught the horse, the boy and girl learn that life requires adaptation and adjustments--and can sometimes bring great joy.

So that's the longest summary in the history of ever, right? Let me see if I can expand a little on this.

Bin-daa-dee-nin is super awesome because he is a) Apache b) on the lam and c) has perfect eyesight. He and his random friends/sort of relations are running from U.S. soldiers after some conflict or something or another. One of his friends, who has a name that is completely impossible to remember, is hurt, so this book inevitably becomes one long torturous session as we wait for this guy to die. This takes just about forever. Anyway, Bin is hiding out in a cave, wondering just what the hell he's going to do here, and he has a spirit dream or something and presto! A horse appears. And let me tell you, this horse is freaking gorgeous. He is a black and white pinto, and Bin names him Moon That Flies. Okay, so blah blah blah...Bin obsesses over the horse and ponders if he's been trained and blah blah blah. Eventually we break into Bin's story to learn a little about this girl named Sarah Chilton, a fourteen-year-old blond girl fresh from Arkansas, where things were perfect (you know, this just amuses me). She rues the day her family moved to New Mexico, because she wants a horse, which apparently they can't have despite all sorts of space and other completely ridiculous reasons that involve quality of grass? Well, whatever. Sarah wants a horse, Sarah doesn't have a horse, so what does Sarah do? Sarah wakes up in the middle of the night because she thinks livestock is roaming around the house, breaks all her father's rules in order to be responsible and save the livestock, and winds up catching the same pinto, who randomly shows up on her lawn.

So Sarah sticks the pinto in the chicken coop, a Cindy move if ever there was one, distressing her sister, who loves chickens (I am not kidding). We get more pondering over if the horse is trainable or not, blah blah blah. Sarah gets dumped, but she's all self-righteous and perfect about it, and invariably Bin shows up and steals the horse away. Sarah is pissed. Those damn savages! How dare they? Don't they know that this horse is her property? Oh, the indignant anger. The self-absorbed whining. Where have I seen this all before?

Yeah, Bin steals the stupid horse back and I stopped really paying attention. All I know is that Sarah's anger was so great her father joined the army to get this horse back because Sarah's happiness is everything. So they get the horse back and Bin gets shoved on a reservation and Sarah is all happy again. Of course, she realizes that Bin loves the horse also, but to hell with that. She has her horse, and will proceed now to never think of this situation ever again.

We then have an epilogue. Lindsay, Sarah's descendant, goes to a gas station. Mike, Bin's descendant, goes to the same gas station. Lindsay pumps gas. Mike gets a soda. They both notice each other and OMG, sparks fly! Across the gas station parking wild horses suddenly decide to romp by. And because the horses are all inspiring, they both have a revelation that they should know each other from somewhere, although this is completely impossible because they don't know each other from anywhere.

  • It is Sarah's birthday when she finds the horse, which she names Moon Dancer. She has always wanted a horse, and when she finds Moon Dancer she immediately thinks exactly the same thing Cindy would think in this situation: If she found the horse, shouldn't that mean she can keep the horse? Sarah, take your 1880's etiquette and apply it to your real life, please.
  • Also during her birthday, the stage is raided and Sarah's bolt of cloth is missing! Naturally this lays the foundation for Sarah's hatred for the Apaches. They have Sarah's number, surely, and she is not thrilled about this.
  • Eventually, after Moon Dancer is stolen, she has to have a private moment to mull over how horrible things are because both her cloth and her horse have been stolen as she hates those "savages" even more. Note that Sarah was all peace loving and relatively carefree about the Apaches before they started to steal her stuff.
  • Bin-daa-whatever's story is supposed to be the interesting, action packed portion of the book, but I found it exceptionally boring. Plus, he's as perfect as Sarah, what with his zoom lens eyesight and his ability to ride a horse bareback at a gallop and kill things with a rifle without really trying.
  • The end was exceptionally weird. Lindsay and Mike both have to think back to their great great grand whatevers, Sarah and Bin-daa-dee-nin. We get extremely short discussion on what they did: Sarah had kids and loved her horse, who disappeared after 20 years of service. Bin-daa-dee-nin went to the reservation and apparently also had kids. Blah. Boring.
  • Mike's notice of Lindsay made me laugh: Check out those three hot girls in a car, he thought. Nice. Who the hell thinks like that? Not to mention, Lindsay isn't even in the car.
  • Just so you know, Moon Dancer is the fastest horse ever and jumps perfectly.
  • Phoebe is Cindy's Heather. At one point, Sarah is having Phoebe, her friend, set up jumps for her (like this is fun and rewarding for the friend...nice, Sarah). And Phoebe requests some time to ride the horse. Sarah hesitates, pondering how much experience Phoebe has. Ahh, wonderful. Phoebe gets on the horse, does everything wrong, and Sarah just suffers her incompetence, further making Sarah look like the perfect equestrian saint. Yes, Karen. I noticed what you did there.

So, yeah, I didn't actually get all the way through this. I suppose Karen has grown marginally as a writer since her run as a Thoroughbred author, but she clearly hasn't gotten over her various characterization issues. All her characters are still variations of Cindy, but are we really surprised?


grandelusion813 said...

nope, not surprised at all. good to know that some things never change.

Elizabeth said...

Oh my god, most amazing news EVER. (I mean about the moon horsies, not the bats or the universe or the Civil War.)

I have no idea if Bin-daa-dee-nin is a traditional Apache name or not -- I couldn't say. But I sure hope someone had an AutoCorrect entry for it when she was writing this book.

Jessica Burkhart said...

I love that you keep tabs on the old Thoroughbred writers! :)

Mara said...

@ Jessica:
Someone has to! ;)

@ Elizabeth:
No kidding. Bin-daa-dee-nin is actually the easiest of the three Apache names to remember. The other two I'm not even attempting.