I was lucky enough to meet Linda Ulleseit, the author of On a Wing and a Dare, at a local author event last year. Since then, she has been a gracious supporter of my series, while I’ve failed utterly to return the favor. Now, I have FINALLY gotten a spare moment to give the first book in her Flying Horse Books series a good read, and I’m so glad that I did!
The story takes place in a mythical and equine-centric version Whales (which is plenty of reason for me to like it right away, but more on that later) where the best job in the world is to be a flying-horse rider for one of the most prominent barns. These daring riders compete in aerial games of skill on their beautiful winged steeds, to adoration and fame. But, despite the fact that two of the most powerful barns have been grumbling through a feud for generations, the children of these two barns are the best of friends. Poor Emma, the charming and precocious daughter of Hoel’s barn, has her heart set on her childhood friend, Even, the handsome eldest son of Morgan’s barn. Meanwhile, Davyd, Even’s darling and clever younger brother, is also a close friend to Emma and has developed his own feeling for her, as well. Amid this already complex social situation, the winged horses are suddenly falling ill from a mysterious sickness. Will Hoel and Morgan put their differences aside for the sake of their horses? Will Emma ever be free to marry the man she truly loves? Will sweet little Davyd ever catch a break?? You’ll just have to read for yourself to find out!
First of all, I have to say that I was sucked into the world of this story right away. This is partly because, like many silly Americans, I often internally glamorize my English, Scottish, and Welsh roots, and lament never having the chance to visit much of the homeland. Just as I’d hoped when first hearing that Whales was the setting of the story, Linda’s writing is flush with atmospheric details of the lofty mountains, the rolling green hills, and the wild winds. I was delighted by how easily I found myself transported into such a vivid world. Linda also used Welsh language in the dialog, which added a lovely flavor without ever being excluding to someone (like me) who has no knowledge of the language. Instead, the meaning of every phrase was easy to deduce, or swiftly explained, with expert ease. The details of the environments were also not too numerous to feel forced, but came off as natural and earnest, which can sometimes be rather rare in modern writing.
Aside from the beautiful backdrop of the story, the characters were all very well defined and interesting. I found myself enjoying poor tortured Davyd most of all, who is expected to be a great flying-horse rider like his brother and everyone else in his family, but is terrified of heights. How can you not instantly feel for the boy? As Davyd struggled with his shameful secret of not actually wanting to be a rider, while also trying to reconcile his brand new feeling for his oldest friend, and nearly singlehandedly administrate the arrangements for a massive event like the annual aerial games in the midst of a equine health crisis, I found myself only caring more and more for him. But even with my preference, I must admit that each character had a surprising amount of depth, roundness, and charming understandably. All but Tristain, who’s really just a jerk. But then, the strength of my dislike for him is only a credit to the author. Love and hate both require equal skill to produce in a reader.
So, if you can’t afford a vacation to Whales, or if you just want to read a well written, exciting, and truly charming book, then I highly recommend On a Wing and a Dare. I never thought I would so enjoy a YA book about flying horses, and I’m delighted to find that I was so wrong. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series as well! Even if this story isn’t your usual genre, trust me. It’s worth giving it a try.
Get the eBook on Amazon, or on Smashwords. Only $2.99! The paperback is also available on Amazon.
Check out the series on Goodreads.
Follow Linda Ulleseit on her blog, Twitter, or Facebook.