ISBN 10: 000812440X
Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
List Price: 14.99 AUD
I’ve bought two of the previous books in this series for my library but not had the chance to read either so I was very glad to receive this one for review.
Of course the horsey girls will love it (as they have done the others) but the historical facts on which it is based are also quite fascinating.
Two very different Russian girls and two very different special horses are separated by time but linked by a very special diamond necklace.
Anna Orlov lives in a magnificent palace in the often frozen Russian wilds surrounded by a menagerie of animals. They’re not pets exactly although two become so for the girl, rather they are part of the breeding program for which her highly-ranked father is famous throughout the empire. In the late 18th century Count Alexei Orlov was one of the most powerful men at Catherine’s court (not least because he was a conspirator in the overthrow of Tsar Peter III so that his wife, Catherine, could take the throne). After Anna’s beloved mother dies, life with her cold-hearted father and her cruel older brother becomes almost unbearable as she discovers more and more about the darker side of both. Her only memento of her mother is a beautiful black diamond necklace that is rumoured to have special powers.
Anna’s father is given the credit for breeding the now famous Orlov trotters after he brings home a beautiful Arabian stallion to cross breed with the best of Russian horses but it is really Anna who saves the stallion’s foal and raises him secretly to become the foundation of the breed.
Valentina Romanov is an orphan trapped in a circus where she performs with her unusual looking horse, Sasha. She has however big dreams that go way beyond the tawdry and poor life she has at the mercy of her so-called benefactor, the ringmaster. Valentina has only one precious possession – the same black diamond necklace that once belonged to the Orlovs. [Her character is based on Alexandra Korelova who won Olympic gold with her Orlov trotter Balagur – also a former circus horse!]
The two stories run parallel and refer to many actual people and events fictionalised into this really compelling story. After reading the novel I just had to go and look up the histories of both girls which proved just as interesting as the book.
I loved this – it was a great read and I can see why the girls in my library took to the others so readily.
Highly recommended for readers from around 8 upwards.
Watch Alexandra and Balagur here to see just how truly beautiful this breed is!
The murderous Count Orlov