Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Magical Realism
When Emmaline arrives at the tuberculosis hospital during World War II, she discovers a secret: there are winged horses living in the mirrors. One day, she enters the abandoned garden to find that a real winged horse from the mirrors has entered her world and needs her help. Emmaline begins to receive letters from the Horse Lord, asking her to protect the white winged horse named Foxfire from a dark and sinister force -- a Black Horse who hunts by moonlight but is blinded by bright colors. As Emmaline searches for colorful objects, her friend Anna becomes increasingly ill, and Emmaline begins to remember for the first time what happened to her family.
Middle grade is definitely where it’s at these days. Seriously, I have not read so many books that are so tinged in nostalgia – bringing me right back to the books I read throughout my childhood – and so well written that it makes for a pleasant read, but surprisingly complex in its plots.
This was a peculiar little book. It deals with very serious issues like war and death while still maintaining its effervescent magical quality. Emmaline resides at a children’s hospital during World War II where she happens to live with other orphaned kids suffering from tuberculosis. Emmaline’s condition isn’t as bad as some of the other kids and just like kids act in normal social environments, there are bullies and besties. But as it turns out, Emmaline is the only one at this hospital who happens to see winged horses in mirrors.
The parallel world is very unique and the story’s pacing picks up when one of the horses, Foxfire, comes over to the “real world.” Emmaline is tasked to care of this horse who is hurt and weak and can’t defend itself from a sinister and dark horse who is after it.
The hospital is very grey, the kids very pale, their soup a light yellow, and because it is winter, outside is covered in white. In other words, it is a place devoid of color. Devoid of life. Devoid of hope. Which is why in order to combat the dark and evil horse, Emmaline is urged to use color to deflect and drive it away.
The use of color, like so many other aspects in this novel, served as a metaphor and I liked how the author used this theme consistently throughout, highlighting the dichotomy of this world and the other world. The reality versus the fantastical.
And I can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy as the paperback ARC didn’t offer all the art work to be included. I’m sure it will be gorgeous! Hope you have a chance to add this one to your collection.
Megan Sheperd grew up in her family's independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge meganshepherd.com and follow her on Twitter at @megan_sheperd.
Mountains. She is the author of several acclaimed young adult books. Sheperd lives and writes on a 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband. You can visit her at
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, October 3rd: Twinning for Books, Review
Tuesday, October 4th: The Mod Podge Bookshelf, Interview
Wednesday, October 5th: Jenuine Cupcakes, Review (and cupcakes!)
Thursday, October 6th: Pandora’s Books, Movie Cast Post
Friday, October 7th: Owl Always Be Reading (Review)
Monday, October 10th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers, Review
Tuesday, October 11th: Such a Novel Idea, Playlist Post
Wednesday, October 12th: The Reading Nook Reviews, Review
Thursday, October 13th: Seeing Double In Neverland, Author Guest Post
Friday, October 14th: Mundie Moms, Review