If you like magical books about horses with wondrous powers who travel between the worlds of Faerie, then House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan is the book for you! The heroine of the novel is Elen, a princess of the kingdom of Ymbria. Her greatest wish is to become a rider of worldrunners: the magical horses that are the only safe way to travel the roads through the worlds of Faerie. Now Elen has the chance to fulfill her dream at last, but the price is much too high.
The problem is that to become a worldrider, Elen must journey to the House of the Star on Earth, the Arizona ranch where the worldrunners live and breed. There, she must try to forge a peace with her people’s worst enemy—a traitor from the world of Caledon—and end the war that has been tearing their worlds apart for centuries. If Elen doesn’t succeed, the Master of the House of the Star will close both Ymbria and Caledon off from the worldroads forever. In the past the person from Caledon has always been a boy, and Elen fears that it will be this time, too–and that they will be expected to eventually marry each other, something Elen has no intention of letting happen. Though she wants to become a worldrider, she’d rather run away and let whatever fate might befall Ymbria and Caledon as a result of her actions fall upon her shoulders than get married to own of her worst enemies.
However, running away is not in her future, it seems. She tries to open up a world road on her own, but finds herself in danger on a road in one of the worlds of Faerie. Blanca, a worldrunner, saves her, and Elen finds she can communicate with the horse with her mind. She asks the horse to take her to a world called Hesperia, but Blanca takes her to the Earth, instead. It was a part of a plan that Elen’s mom knew about, to make sure that she would still end up on Earth in case she tried to escape her responsibilities.
Elen’s nemesis from Caledon is not a boy, as she feared, but a teen girl, about the same age as she is. You’d think that makes life easier for her, but it doesn’t. Elen and Ria argue about everything, and they both think the other’s home world is the one responsible for the war that’s lasted for thousands of years continuing. They need to work together and establish a friendship if their worlds, and the others, have any chance of continuing to exist. All of the worlds are being destroyed by the constant warfare of Ymbria and Caledon, and these two are the best hope for peace to be established between the worlds. However, when Ria runs off with Moondance, a worldrunner stallion with who she’s formed a bond like Elen has with Blanca, it seems as if Elen’s suspicions about her enemy have been confirmed.
I really enjoyed reading this fantasy novel. It’s probably mainly written for an audience of teen or pre-teen girls, but it has plenty of action and intrigue in it, and I love to ride horses, myself, so I found this novel and the story the author paints of the special bond that can develop between a person and a horse extremely fascinating. The House of the Star Ranch seems very realistic, and Elen, though she is a princess, has to participate in the same chores as everyone else does, as a part of a test everyone at the ranch has to undergo to determine if they will continue training with the worldrunners that inhabit the other part of the ranch. They first must show they are experienced enough with riding and taking care of regular horses, like the mortals who also go to camp at the ranch do. If they succeed, they then will spend years in training at the other half of the ranch.
House of the Star is Caitlin Brennan’s first novel for young readers. It is an enchanting tale of a very special breed of horses, the tribe of horse girls, and faerie magic. The author raises Lippazan horses at her Dancing Horse Farm, and they were her inspiration for the worldrunners in her novel. One of her horses, Pooka, is the model for Moondance, and another one, his mare, Pandora, is the model for Blanca. If you’re a lover of horses and fantasy novels, then House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan is the book for you!