This is a fabulous read. The texture is rich and multi-layered and is a clever way of telling history. The basic story of this extraordinary horse, the Byerley Turk, is true, but the author has conjured a vivid account of the journey it made from the stables of a Balkan farm, through the opulence of the Ottoman Empire, then through all the Irish wars, to become the very first thoroughbred horse, by telling the story from the point of view of the horse's Turkish groom, who appears in the few oil paintings there are of this once famous horse. He creates a moving account of the bond between a poor victim of circumstance and his powerful horse as they miraculously survive every battle they are forced to ride through from the Balkans to the Boyne. And what a journey! They witnessed the fracturing of Europe, as Islam clashed with Christendom, and then as Catholic clashed with Protestant; conflicts that have haunted Europe for the last three hundred years and threaten to engulf much more of the world today. It is a vivid portrait of a brutal age. It reeks of the road, of the camp and the battlefield, but it sparkles too with the beauty of the landscapes they travel through and the splendour of a sophisticated yet sadly forgotten culture. The novel is clearly born of thorough historical research but what makes this such a compelling read is the writing. Jeremy James possesses a stunning eloquence. He is capable of generating tremendous suspense. Sometimes in a single sentence he can push emotions from one extreme to the other. He never lets the pace slacken as it flashes through scenes that are breathtaking and cinematic yet nor does he glorify the horrors he describes, be it the pillaging of nomadic villages by the Mongol hordes or the monumental battles of Buda and the Boyne. And throughout it spins the thread of this horse's captivating sense of destiny woven with the quiet perception of his remarkable groom. Read this book and gain from the author's deep understanding of the relationship between an intelligent horse and a sensitive man. Read this book and hear the true whisper of the horse. And attend it closely. It is conveyed subtly by the Ghazi groom whose insight and thoughts shimmer with the philosophy of the Sufi. And because of that, this book contains great wisdom. Allah Kerim indeed!
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