Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: Tamer of Horses by Amalia Carosella

Title: Tamer of Horses
Author: Amalia Carosella
Publisher:  Thorskona Books (October 3, 2016)
ISBN: 9781535240499
Pages: 375 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, mythology, romance
My Rating: 4 cups 

More than two decades before the events of Helen of Sparta...

Abandoned as a baby, Hippodamia would have died of exposure on the mountain had it not been for Centaurus. The king of the centaurs saved her, raised her as his own, and in exchange asks for only one thing: she must marry the future king of the Lapiths, Pirithous, son of Zeus, and forge a lasting peace between their peoples by giving him an heir. It would be a fine match if Pirithous weren’t more pirate than king and insufferably conceited, besides. But Hippodamia can hardly refuse to marry him without betraying every hope her people have for peace.

After the death of Dia, queen of the Lapiths, tensions are running high. The oaths and promises protecting the Lapith people from the Myrmidons have lapsed, and the last thing Pirithous needs is to begin his kingship by making new enemies. But not everyone wants peace on the mountain. There are those among the centaurs who feel it comes at too high a price, and Peleus, King of the Myrmidons, lusts for the lush valley of the Lapiths and the horses that graze within it. Pirithous needs a strong queen at his side, and Hippodamia will certainly be that—if he can win her loyalties.

But no matter their differences, neither Hippodamia nor Pirithous expected their wedding banquet to be the first battle in a war.

My Thoughts:

"Her dark hair was crowned with a wreath of white wildflowers, but even so, she had not lost the stray bits of leaf and stick, the disarray a reminder of her upbringing. A wild creature, born of the mountain and the wood, only waiting to be tamed by her king."

I loved Carosella’s previous two books, Helen of Sparta and By Helen’s Hand, so snapping up the ARC of Tamer of Horses as soon as it became available was a total no-brainer for me. The first two books reimagined the well-known tale of Helen and the lead up to the Trojan War, complete with the author's own unique twist upon the story. Taking place some 25 years prior, Tamer serves as a prequel to those books but can easily be read as a stand alone as well.

Although most everyone is familiar with the story of Helen, this book tells the story of one of the somewhat lesser known side characters of the Helen books, King Pirithous of the Lapiths, and his Centaur–raised bride Hippodamia. As an extra treat for readers of the previous books, King Theseus of Athens is once again present and plays a significant part in this story, and we also get to meet his first wife Antiope, the Amazon Queen.

Carosella’s writing is immersive and exceptionally readable. Her knowledge of Bronze Age Greece and Greek mythology is obvious and she does a marvelous job interpreting and fleshing out the classic myths and filling in any gaps that exist in those tales. Her characters are engaging and she truly brings the time period to life. I did feel there was a bit too much sexual/romantic angst at the beginning of this book, which slowed things down somewhat, but once the war with the Centaurs began the story picked up steam quickly, and I was completely engaged from that point on.

As Carosella states in the author’s note: “To be frank, I couldn’t imagine Pirithous taking just any woman as his wife. She had to have been exceptional and unique. Exceptional enough that decades later, he would accept nothing less than a daughter of Zeus for his second wife…” And, indeed, the author has succeeded in creating a strong and interesting female lead in Hippodamia. She is fierce, wild and stubborn yet loyal and honorable, and I found myself rooting for her in spite of her flaws.

Theseus is a favorite of mine from the Helen books, and experiencing his relationship with his Amazon wife was a definite highlight here. Antiope is a fabulous character in her own right, and I would love to see a future book entirely devoted to their story. In the meantime, I eagerly look forward to any and all new releases from this author. I am most certainly a fan and will pick them up without hesitation!

"She was queen. The only woman Pirithous thought worthy of the role. The only woman he trusted to rule in his place. She was his queen. And she must fight."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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