Digital version – browse, print or download
Can't see the preview?
How to print the digital edition of Books for Keeps: click on the digital edition (above) and look for the icon in the menu bar that resembles a newspaper article; this will open the edition in a PDF file - click on the printer icon in the top right of the screen to print.
Receive the latest news & reviews direct to your inbox!
Ponies, a strong-willed heroine, the Essex coast, clear-cut moral values and a rapid storyline: K M Peyton may have been here before (many times, indeed, over more than 60 years of publication and as many novels), but she remains thoroughly readable. Now she offers the first of a trilogy of ‘Roman Pony Adventures’.
Minna is a blacksmith’s daughter, consigned to the hard life which falls to womenfolk living around the lonely Roman outpost at Othona, just south of Mersea Island. Her passions focus almost equally upon Theo, her childhood friend but now the young commander of the fort, and Silva, an abandoned foal she has saved and raised. Minna’s less confident, but ambitious older brother Cerdic is the other youthful character at the heart of this narrative. The adventure itself in which Minna must swim with Silva through the River Blackwater and then ride to warn of dangerous marauders is told with excitement and pace. There are difficult hurdles to be faced, though young readers will never doubt that horse and rider will make it in the end. There are compelling glimpses of the hard-bitten Roman veterans and the harsh life of the remote camp offset by the luxuries enjoyed by the tribune and his family at Camulodonum/Colchester; and a graphically ferocious nautical battle with invading Saxon pirates.
Peyton has decided upon an uncompromisingly modern idiom in both dialogue and narrative. For me, her choice does not evoke that sense of otherness which made Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain so alluring. ‘Career move’, ‘if she could access Tiberius’, ‘Big head’, ‘don’t talk rubbish’, ‘lucky beast’… I’m not convinced young readers need such language to be drawn into these distant times.