The Horse Road

Written by Troon Harrison
Review by Juliet Waldron

This story is told by Kallista, the 14-year-old daughter of a nomadic horsewoman. It is the year 102 BC, and her father and two brothers are away trading when the king of their city refuses to negotiate with the Chinese ruler over the ‘heavenly horses’ which are reared in the Golden Valley of Ferghana. As the Chinese army threatens their city and their lands, Kallista is faced with challenges that test her skills as well as her self-confidence. With her mother sick and her father absent, she relies on friends and her thorough understanding of horses to try and save her own white horse, Swan, while their city is under attack. This plump, shy girl has to prove that she can also be a warrior.

Incorporating the true history of the battle to gain these unique horses and extend the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean, Harrison has done extensive research to create a novel which dramatically describes the land, people and history of this central Asian region which now forms part of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. She has captured the culture of the different peoples who lived there over 2000 years ago and brought alive their emotions, superstitions and traditional beliefs. Her knowledge of horses and riding is obvious, and her graphic descriptions leave no doubt of her love of this subject. It is a book that will appeal to many young readers, regardless of whether or not they are horse lovers. It is a story which will keep them engrossed, as the pace never ceases from beginning to end.