Second in the Joe trilogy, we find our hero established in his life in the countryside, looking after the family’s two ponies and also getting to grips with the charges at their new horse rehabilitation centre (a great plot idea, as it allows new characters to be introduced easily and plausibly). Joe’s sister Emily starts to get more keen on horses again after her scary experience in the last book, and there’s a bit of well-observed jealousy as she takes to it really well, gets in with the Pony Club crowd and generally slots in to the Girls And Ponies stereotype, right down to her pink wellies. Will Joe be able to maintain his position as The Horsey One out of the two of them, or should he be more open to these changes? In the main plot, when Joe starts riding Lightning more robustly, he finds she has a skill that she enjoys and could take them on an interesting journey …
The author doesn’t spare our emotions in this one. Heartstrings are tugged, emotional situations are described … but friendships are strengthened and new ones flourish, with the modern use of technology which brings these books up to date (but in a sensible and believable way). Joe is faced with some dilemmas about friendships and ponies, and his relationship with his friend Caroline deepens, too. I cried at one point (probably not the point you’d think – don’t give the plot away if you have read this but you can ask me privately using my contact form!). But there is a theme that might be a little sensitive for some readers, and might need some support for the very youngest or most sensitive readers (I coped, and I’m a sensitive reader).
I was pleased to find that Chris the farrier and Sensei Radford the aikido tutor both appearing again, alongside the wise and down-to-earth Nellie. This range of characters gives the series a depth and an anchor that make it really special. It’s also good to find out about the workings behind horse passports, the Pony Club and mounted games competitions, so you learn as well as enjoying.
Highly recommended yet again for pony-book-loving boys, girls and adults. I can’t wait for the third one in the series (although why do there have to be only three – maybe the author could do a Jill type series …?).