May 9, 2010

The Whirlwind is not a metaphor.

by Alison Hart
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Sequel to Shadow Horse.

When thirteen-year-old Jas Schuler found her beloved mare, Whirlwind, dead in her paddock, she thought her heart would break. Now Jas knows the truth.

Whirlwind is alive.

Wealthy horse breeder Hugh Robicheaux faked the mare's death, collected insurance money on her life, then sold her to an unsuspecting buyer. And he's going to get away with his scheme, too. Unless someone can find Whirlwind. And that's exactly what Jas plans to do.

But hunting for Whirlwind is dangerous. Hugh has threatened to destroy everything Jas holds dear unless she stops her search. As she struggles with her desire to find Whirlwind without letting the people she loves get hurt, Jas must ask herself: Is all this worth risking for a horse she may never find?
I have heard repeatedly about the amazing Shadow Horse, Alison Hart's award nominated horsey mystery. For some reason, I never got around to reading it, even when I knew Whirlwind was right around the corner. After reading this, I'm making Shadow Horse a priority.

Because Whirlwind is pretty awesome.

Two months after the beginning of Shadow Horse, Jas is nearing the end of what is essentially court ordered house arrest. She's pretty obsessed with the idea that Whirlwind might still be alive, and so is the insurance company that Hugh Robicheaux has a history of scamming. Hugh, however, has no intention of being brought down, because people like him "always win." People like Jas have ankle monitors and live in mobile homes, like they're supposed to. Lucky for Jas, she's not about to accept anything that Hugh says, and uses just about every resource around her to marshal interest in finding Whirlwind.

Enter the insurance agency's investigator, M. Baylor. All of a sudden finding Whirlwind stops looking like a crapshoot and more of an actual possibility. Hugh knows it, too, and starts to threaten not only Jas, but Second Chance Farm. Hugh also knows more than he should, leading Jas to suspect there's a spy in their midst, but at a charity case rescue like Second Chance Farm, who could be feeding information to a man they all loathe?

There's illegal search and seizure, sexual tension, and murder.

There's even a hurricane.

It's awesome like that.

What I like about Whirlwind is that it's not just a horse book and it's not just a horse mystery. It's a young adult novel about a girl who's going through a lot, as well as trying to grow up. She's a barely fourteen-year-old kid taking care of her elderly grandfather, navigating a possible romance, and trying to take down the most influential man in town. It sounds like a lot for one girl and a rescue farm to tackle, but it's done with a gritty realism that had me immediately addicted.

Jas isn't a spoiled brat with horse ownership on the brain. She's human. She gets prickly and lashes out (usually at Chase, the boy she's in teenage love with, which never fails to amuse me), and she recognizes the need to apologize (usually to Chase, as it turns out) in order to remain a likable horse girl. And while she mostly lands in serious main character territory, she knows how to apply some humor into her life. She's also (dare I say it?) proactive. Nothing just randomly turns out in Jas's favor that she doesn't work hard for, something I think we can all appreciate.

Plus, she doesn't like Twilight. I mean, that alone is enough.

While this book does have a beautiful and satisfying ending, it leaves plenty of undeveloped plot for another sequel. I'll go ahead and say that I'm expecting this to be a second book in a trilogy. It may take another ten years to see it, but the potential is definitely there. In the meantime, Whirlwind is strong enough to stand on its own.

Overall: Totally worth your money. Go buy it.


coulrophobic agnostic said...

Alison Hart wrote something good? Never thought I'd see the day.

Mara said...

I've always heard Shadow Horse and her trilogy about racing (Gabriel's something or another) is quite good. I think Thoroughbred colored my thoughts for a little too long.

Anonymous said...

coulrophobic--I hope you'll go to my website and check out some of my other books. Mara--It's called the Racing to Freedom trilogy--Gabriel's Horses is the first in the trilogy. I wrote the Thoroughbred books under Alice Leonhardt and I was proud of every one. Sorry if you didn't like them!

Anonymous said...

Here's my site

Monique said...

Alison! It must be hard writing characters you didn't create. And I liked the Image books more than the Star books, personally. :) Always felt you were the more polished writer between yourself, Mary and that other author who wrote The Forgotten Filly... her name escapes me!

Mara said...

Karle Dickerson. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Monique--Sometimes it was frustrating to write for the series. Not only did we not institute the character changes/change in the series focus, but in one of my Thoroughbred books, the editor completely lopped off my last chapter. I was stunned!

Monique said...

I know! It was obvious that they did that too. I would rather have had the last chapter than some silly quiz.