Kirkus Reviews: VICTOR
Posted by authorcamilson
A Swedish princess in 16th-century Estonia forms a special bond with a horse in this middle-grade debut.
It’s 1561, and 11-year-old Ardith is homesick. Her father, Erik, has been crowned king of Estonia (which was recently conquered by Sweden), so they and her mother, Linnea, move to dilapidated Castle Toompea in the capital city of Tallinn. Ardith misses many things about her old home in Stockholm, especially Magi, the horse she left behind. The lonely girl takes refuge in the castle stables, where she strikes up an uncertain friendship with Peeter, the stable master’s son. Ardith is enchanted when a colt with a silver mane is born. She becomes determined to become best friends with the foal, whom she names Victor. It takes a lot of effort—and carrots—but by the time Ardith is 14, she and Victor are inseparable. One day, she’s shocked to find Victor being fitted with a harness; she believes that the horse far too special to pull a carriage, even for the king. Determined to prove that Victor is meant for greater things, she resolves to enter the horse into the Royal Estonian Horse Races. But no woman—not even a princess—has ever jockeyed in that competition, and neither her father nor the Tallinn town council like breaking tradition. Lykens’ first novel has an unusual setting and a plucky heroine, and although Ardith’s feminist notions seem a bit modern for the era, it makes for a much more satisfying story. After all, girls having to fight for gender equality remains an unfortunately timely subject. Youngsters who love horses will enjoy Ardith’s struggle to befriend and train Victor. Readers who aren’t already horse-crazy, though, may find that there’s not much else to hold their interest; a few passages contrast Ardith’s idyllic royal childhood with those of children like Peeter, who now live under foreign control, but the subject is quickly abandoned.
A charming, if slight, historical tale of a girl and her horse.
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