Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Wilson
I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade opens with the main character as an elderly woman telling her tale to her granddaughter. So while there is never any question as to the main character's survival, this YA book nonetheless captured my imagination and I am not someone who routinely reads YA. Ms. Wilson's fantasy is fluid, descriptive and unobtrusive. You'll never realize she holds the reins. If you rate by the tears-o-meter, it is by far the best book I've read in months.
When Oyuna of the Kerait tribe is mamed – her foot crushed – by a black mare, she is marked forever. Her parents try every treatment imaginable, but there is no cure for her foot, her life or her luck. Still, Oyuna knows she is meant for more than stirring mare's milk into ayrag. She dreams of speed and freedom, but needs a fast horse to win the next great race and make her dream come true.
Yet when her father allows her to pick a horse, her choice is Bayan, a mare well past her prime. But Oyuna cannot turn away when she hears the horse's plea for help. Reluctantly, Oyuna rescues Bayan and their friendship changes Oyuna's life.
The soldiers of Kublai Khan take riders, food and horses from Oyuna's tribe, including Bayan. Rather than lose her mare, Oyuna masquerades as her stepbrother and leaves with Bayan and the soldiers. Oyuna is discovered and she and Bayan are dismissed from military service. They now serve as a currier to the great Khan. This is good news to Oyuna, who knows the Khan has a herd of ten thousand white mares. If she and Bayan deliver his precious message in time, perhaps he will give her a fast horse.
She and Bayan brave many dangers crossing the Gobi, but at last reach Kublai Khan's court. Received well, Oyuna develops a friendship with the Khan, but he wants Bayan for his own. Rather than leave her friend or trade her for the mount she wants, Oyuna stays in her ruler's service. Then tragedy strikes the Khan's herds including Bayan. Only Oyuna can save her beloved mare, but time is faster than any horse.
You must read "I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade" to discover the ending. Nothing will induce me to tell, but be prepared when you read this book. Pack a lunch so you won't have to get up and have tissues close by. You'll need them.