Hello everyone and welcome back to The Reading Room where I talk about the upcoming/recent releases I’ve read recently and am excited to talk about.
Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic, a dark coming an of age story set against the back drop of equestrian competitions.
*I received a free copy of Dark Horses in exchange for an honest review, all expressed opinions are my own and do not reflect that of the publisher or aithor.
About the BookDark Horses by Susan Mihalic
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on February 16, 2021
A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.
Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.
At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.
About the Author
Susan Mihalic has worked as a book editor, curriculum writer, writing instructor, and freelance writer and editor. She has also taught therapeutic horseback riding. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and now lives in Taos, New Mexico.
How do you talk about loving a book that is so dark and heavy? Mihalic’s debut follows Roan, an equestrian protege who aspires to make the Olympic team like her medal-winning father.
The horse competition side of the novel was incredibly fascinating and engrossing I loved everything about it. It definitely related to the fact that I went through an intense horse obsession when I was in elementary school. I adored Roan’s relationship with all of her different horses, but especially Jasper. The fact that the protagonist’s name is Roan- the color of a horse’s coat- is no coincidence.
I know some will dislike Dark Horses for it’s slower pacing. It is definitely a quiet character study and while it isn’t my normal cup of tea I found Roan and her narrative voice incredibly compelling.
Yet Dark Horses is not just about a fifteen year old athlete’s dream to compete in the Olympics and follow in her father’s footsteps, it also features the inappropriate relationship that exists between her and her father. This is where all the trigger warnings come in:
TW: sexual assault, rape, childhood neglect, all forms of abuse, animal death, death of a family member, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, etc…
Roan’s relationship with her father in public looks like a dream. He’s charming, adoring, and firm when he needs to be. But behind closed doors, the reality of their relationship is profoundly dark and infuriating to read and it’s supposed to be. Both of Roan’s parents are terrible; her father is a sexual predator and her mother is complicit, neglectful and selfish. The novel opens with Roan dealing with a UTI, when she hasn’t so much as kissed a boy her age. Yes, it is uncomfortable from page one.
Yet Dark Horses remains as hopeful as it is harrowing. From Roan’s successful competition to a developing relationship with a boy her age. During the course of the novel, Roan gradually finds her voice to stand up for herself, even if it took a little longer than I was expecting. As a protagonist, Roan reminds us that light can be found in the darkest of times.
I think so many facets of Dark Horses will be controversial, from it’s difficult subject matter to its complicated ending. But I loved this book from cover to cover and gave it 5?. I would recommend it to those who enjoyed novels like My Absolute Darling, My Dark Vanessa, and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.
What About You?
Have you read Dark Horses? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!