The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
Date: March 1st 1999
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
My rating: Outstanding adventure
This novel went way beyond my expectations, into “truly delightful” territory. I had expected something a little less fiction and a little more fluffy (Kind of like Elizabeth Lowell, who writes stories involving art history, book history, studies of artifacts, etc. – but whose writing is not nearly as good).
This novel has a perfect mix of history, romance, and mystery.
The plot begins immediately, with an archaeologist re-tracing her route on a bus after managing to sleep through her train stop. She’s received a teasing letter from an old flame about an amazing dig in southern Scotland, and is on her way to the Scottish borderlands to find out if she wants to work on it. The man financing and leading the dig has a reputation for being a bit mad, which she doesn’t find out until she meets him. It turns out he’s looking for the fabled Lost Legion, the Legio IX Hispana.
The author throws in a ghost – “The Sentinel” – and a psychic boy, which at first I thought I wouldn’t like. Fortunately, the supernatural stuff does not ruin the story or the characterization, both of which are compelling.
I found myself liking all of the characters, even the “villains” (for everyone is only human, after all, and since this isn’t fantasy, there’s no battle between Good and Evil), but I think the Sentinel steals the show.
The plot, from the first page, picks up speed like a boulder rolling down a hill, and I couldn’t put the book down until I had turned the last page. The suspense builds smoothly, as does the romance, with the romance taking a near backseat to the mystery. There were even twists I didn’t expect!
The author mixes in some basic archaeological information, about the process, how things are done, and why they’re done – which will help an archaeology-ignorant reader understand the dig, but briefly threw me out of the story on occasion, since I already know a bit about archaeology.
I definitely plan on reading more from this Canadian author.