Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review: Year of the Horse

Year of the Horse is so different, so charming, and so much fun, and I am very excited to share it with you. I had no idea what this book was going to be like when I read it and I really liked how unexpected that made the plot, so I don't want to share too much with you. Rather than give you the dry book-flap description, I'll share one I found in an Authors Unleashed interview with the author:
Year of the Horse tells the story of a first-generation American boy by the name of Yen Tzu-lu (his friends call him Lu). He is the child of Chinese immigrants who gets taken along on an adventure by a famous gun-fighter and mystic named Jack Straw, and Jack’s gang of outlaws. They aim to steal a gold mine, and Lu has been hired on as an explosives expert (he doesn’t know a thing about explosives, by the way). Needless to say, they have all sorts of adventures...
Mostly, Year of the Horse is a well-written but standard coming-of-age adventure story, set in the post-Civil War West. Lu learns to ride a horse, shoot a gun, likes a girl, sees the world beyond his front step, and grows up. It reminded me a bit of Huck Finn, with its interesting cast of characters and tone. But what made it so special for me was the vein of supernatural running through the story. It was so subtle at first - did Lu really see Jack put cigarette smoke in his pocket? - but by the time they get to climatic fight with the mysterious Yankee, this story has morphed into a tall tale, in the very best sense of the term.

I won't say this book was perfect - I found the Washington Irving references to be out of place and silly, rather than fun - but it was great. I think kids of all ages will love it.

Buy Year of the Horse: A Novel on Amazon.


  1. I just started to read Allen's first book 'Slaves of the Shinar' and am really enjoying it. I was wondering you had a chance to read it and if so, is the "year of the horse' as good?

  2. I have not read Slave of the Shinar, though I am interested in reading it in the future.

  3. So not something I would think to pick up but would read on recommendation. And I'm looking for more books with male leads. Thanks.


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