Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press + Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Genre: Literary Fiction / Psychological Fiction
A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.
Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan’s relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.
At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.
Song/s the book brought to mind: Wild Horses by Garth Brooks – It doesn’t really have anything to do with the book but the fact that the titles are so close together has had this song stuck in my head for days.
There are some books that you love so much it makes them hard to review, and that is where I am at with Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic. This debut novel completely blew me away and I listened to the entire book in one day because there was no way I was going to put it down. It is dark and a heavy-hitter, but I also saw so much strength in Roan. I also loved learning more about competitive riding and seeing how horses were such a big part of her life. She felt much older than fifteen to me, and I guess you have to be when you go through the things she was going through. This was a different take on an abusive relationship that I haven’t read before and while it was heartbreaking and hard to read, I was also rooting for Roan the entire time and really hoping for something to save her from her dad. Her mom was a piece of work as well, and between her family and the horses, I was a puddle by the end.
The audiobook was fantastic and is narrated by Alex Allwine. I am so glad I went this route and found a new narrator I like. I haven’t listened to her before, but I did notice she has narrated a few books which I am happy to see, and I will definitely be checking them out since they are almost all books I want to read. She was an excellent choice for voicing Dark Horses and I thought every single thing about her narration was spot on. I was drawn in by Mihalic’s writing and am just floored that this is a debut novel. It’s hard to say too much about this book without giving anything away, but if you want a great psychological fiction novel and don’t mind triggers, this is an excellent choice. Like a lot of readers, I would suggest making sure you know what the triggers are before going into it, so you know what you are getting yourself into. I didn’t do this, but I also won’t not read something due to triggers so take from that what you will. I loved Dark Horses so much and I really hope to see more books from this author.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.