K.M. Peyton is a prolific writer of pony stories and this is a pony story for a mature teenage girl—with the difference that it is set in Roman times.
Minna is the daughter of the blacksmith in the Roman fort of Othona, on the coast just north of London. One morning she sees a foal lying on the saltings. It is small and weak and has been discarded. Minna determines to save it. She nurses it back to health and rears it. Minna names the foal Silva. Three years later her brother, Cerdic, has joined the army and Silva is his horse. (It is a cavalry regiment.) But Minna still helps to care for Silva.
Then one day pirate ships are spotted offshore. The commander orders Cerdic to ride Silva and take a message to Camuloden. He chooses Cerdic because he will have to swim the river and Silva is the best swimmer.
But Cerdic does not get across the river. Minna says she will take the message herself and mounts Silva. Does she get to Camuloden and deliver her message? And is Othona saved from the pirates?
And what about Cerdic? He has failed in his mission. He would be disgraced and could be severely punished. But when a marauding band of pirates land and raid the native village Cerdic has a chance to redeem himself. Does he take it?
This book gives a good picture of Roman Britain in the last days of the Roman Empire. The set-up of the Roman fort with the native village just outside is clearly explained. The opulence of Camuloden is contrasted with the simplicity of Othona.
But the love of Minna for Silva and of Cerdic for his dog will mean that this book has a special meaning for animal lovers.
Comes with a glossary and a map. For animal-loving teenage girls. Recommended.