|Judith Tarr: Lady of Horses|
(Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-312-87572-X (paperback)
Sparrow, the daughter of the tribe's shaman and a captive woman said to be a witch, inherits her father's power, though she keeps her abilities secret. Her father names her half-brother, Walker Between the Worlds, to succeed him as shaman, but Walker possesses no power at all. He steals his visions from Sparrow through intimidation.
While caring for a dying grandmother, Sparrow learns the truth about the People's connection to the horses. Woman, not Man, first rode the horses. The mares govern the herds, not the stallions. As Sparrow matures, her power grows. Horse Goddess calls her, marks Sparrow as her own. The goddess' call beckons Sparrow, insisting that she mount and ride the queen mare, the Horse Goddess incarnate. After Walker, always hungry for more prestige and status in the eyes of men, brings home a second wife, his first wife Keen and Sparrow, flee on the mare. The mare's consort, the king's stallion, follows, enraging Linden, the king, and the whole of the People. Linden sets Wolfcub after the women, making him swear to return the women and the stallion.
Tracked by their childhood friend, Sparrow and Keen move ever closer toward the lands of Sparrow's mother. An Old Woman encounters the pair and demands that they remain with her. Old Woman teaches Sparrow how to discipline her shaman's power, and she teaches Keen how to be a strong woman, to stand proud and not bend pliantly to the whim of men. At the winter solstice, Old Woman gives herself as a sacrifice, filling Sparrow with her power. Sparrow and Keen move to a nearby village, where they settle in with the Grey Horse people, a matriarchal society.
The gods thwart Wolfcub's tracking, but ultimately send him to the same village, battered, alone and nearly dead. The people tend his wounds and give him the new name of Kestrel. When the thaws come, he sets out for the White Stone people, determined to honor the oath he made to his king. He brings back neither woman nor horse, but his sense of honor demands that he tell the king their location.
In the trio's absence, Walker's hold over the People strengthens. Despite being a kingmaker the previous summer and putting Linden on the throne, Walker sets new plots in motion for the next tribal gathering. Kestrel's return puts a kink in things, for Linden still rages over the loss of his stallion. Linden immediately sets outs, with Kestrel as a guide. As the two vastly different cultures collide, Walker's schemes come to fruition. But the gods have other plans in store for the People.
Lady of Horses engages the reader from the first page. The strong themes of Goddess worship and women's power and equality, combined with nice description and wonderfully drawn personalities, make for a read I found impossible to put down.
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