Jakob took refuge in the Vienna stables where the famous Lipizzanner horses were kept in 1938, after the disappearance of both his parents on Kristallnacht, was taken in by the Director and later taken to hide in the country by Herr Engel, the groom, together with the horses, to keep them safe from the Nazis. Now the SS officer Bauer is looking for him knowing he is Jewish, so Herr Engel decides to take the boy and the stallions to safety, after the officer has brutally killed one of them. Together with Kizzy a Roma orphan, they make the perilous journey through Nazi occupied territory to reunite the horses with the Director in his hideout the other side of the Austrian mountains.
This is an exciting story, vividly told, not sparing the reader the atrocities of the Nazis. There is a graphic account of a mass grave with the buzzing of flies, hence the 12+ age recommendation. Jakob’s sad past and his care for Kizzy who has suffered equally seeing her parents shot in front of her, enables them to comfort each other. Herr Engel’s initial distrust of the Roma girl disappears after she proves her worth, when one of the horses is injured and even more so when Herr Engel is injured. The latter part of the story is a little contrived as The Americans arrive and it is decided to give General Patton, a known lover of horses, a demonstration of the skill of both the riders and the Lipizzanneer stallions, ridden of course by Jakob and Kizzy. This rather glib ending mars the story as what comes through most of the book, is the immense danger they are in, and the courage shown by the two young people, (who are called children but are not really so). This is an exciting fictional adventure story, which lovers of horses will enjoy immensely.