This is much more than a book about horses and it is a lovely addition to a great series.
Dream Riders is a series for middle grade readers about a group of early teens living in Pocket Valley. They all belong to a riding school, “Dream Riders”. This is an alternative riding school where they don’t use saddles and bridles, but learn how to ride by developing a rapport with their horse: having an understanding with the animal so the rider and horse are completely in tune with each other. Each book in the series centres around one of the teens.
Australian authors Laura Bloom, who always wanted to be a writer, and Jesse Blackadder, who wanted to be a vet, are both lovers of horses and this is very evident in the text. They both now live in the country and are surrounded by animals. Both have either won or been shortlisted for several literary awards.
This particular book centres around Storm, a girl who has grown up in the country, away from civilisation, with her hippie parents and four younger siblings. They don’t have any technology or indeed, any time-saving devices at all like washing machines, electricity, or a telephone. All the children are home schooled and spend much of their free time helping with daily chores like the washing, cleaning and growing their own food. As the oldest child, many of the chores fall on the shoulders of Storm. She calls her parents by their first names, Lux and Breeze, and has always dreamt of living life as people did in medieval times. She is obsessed with the language, the food and the clothes of the medieval era.
One night Storm has a strange dream about a horse. Next day she is competing in an archery contest at the Medieval Fair which is being run in conjunction with the local show, when she is confronted by a runaway horse just like in her dream. She sees it as a sign. Storm then sets about trying to make her dream come true by trying to earn enough money to buy the horse of her dreams. But first she needs to learn how to ride.
At the Dream Riders school, Storm meets new friends, and forms relationships, something she has never done before. She is on a steep learning curve when they begin to introduce her to the internet, mobile phones and even milkshakes.
Storm lives by the medieval Code of Chivalry. This influences every part of her life and includes things such as: “At all times speak the truth”, “Protect the weak and defenceless”, “Live by honour”, and most importantly in this story, “Persevere to the end in any enterprise begun”.
This novel is easy to read and well written. Early teens, whether they are lovers of horses or not, will be drawn into the world of Storm and her friends. It is written in the first person, through the eyes of Storm herself, and we are captured by her fears, desires and sadness. This story is firmly set in the present but the glimpses of life in medieval times adds another dimension. We are carried along with her as she faces new challenges and discovers a world outside her comfort zone.
For those who love horses, this book and series are perfect. But it is much more than a book about horses. Included, there are many issues which the children have to deal with, common to those facing many young teens today. This book touches on same sex relationships, the importance of friendships, family life, getting a first job, realising dreams, never giving up, being true to yourself.
Dream Riders, Storm is a lovely addition to a great series.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Walker Books Australia
Released: October 2019