Dragon Horse by Peter Ward

Rating 8.5/10
The author’s passion for China and Chinese mythology shines through strongly.

‘The sleeping dragon awakes!’

Aeons ago, winged dragons spread terror across the Chinese empire.

Their descendants, magnificent horses bred and ridden by the Wild Horsemen, are known as dragon horses.

But now an ancient evil is stirring – and two brothers, Rokshan and An Lushan, are about to be drawn into battle. One must travel to the Valleys of the Horsemen – and on to the Plain of the Dead where the great stallion Stargazer, lord of the horses, is waiting for him.

While the other chooses a different path entirely…

Set in China during the 9th century, Dragon Horse is an epic fantasy that marks an impressive debut novel for British author Peter Ward. It is an atmospheric, well researched and involving tale of two brothers, Rokshan and An Lushan, with two very different destinies.

The author’s passion for China and Chinese mythology shines through strongly and the admirable attention to detail make this refreshing take on a fantasy theme highly readable and unquestionably enjoyable. A book for both children and adults, it is full of memorable characters and locations with the titular dragon horses being a brilliant invention. The passage below, taken from the book, describes Rokshan’s first meeting with these wonderful creatures.

“Rokshan bent closer and gazed into the dragon horse’s eyes, and for a moment he felt as if he was drowning in the depths of green oceans. He grabbed instinctively for something to hold onto as he was swept into a whirlpool of colours that pummelled and tugged at him, pulling him this way and that. Strangely, he felt himself relaxing, and the more he let go, the more easily he seemed to float along with the pulsing colours that streamed about him… He felt himself laughing with joy at a sensation that was unlike anything he’d ever felt before-“
Dragon Horse: Chapter 5 – Shou Lao’s Message and the Imperial Messengers

On the slightly negative side, there were occasions when the narrative did not seem to know if it was aimed at children or adults. This sometimes led to confusion when complex and adult-themed passages were joined together by passages that felt rather too simplistic and manufactured. There was also a feeling that the author, by staying very true to the original legends, found difficulty in creating a clear and concise story using the complex source material. These are, it should be pointed out, minor quibbles that meant that Dragon Horse was a very good book rather than an excellent one.
 
At the back of the book there is an author’s historical note on The Silk Road. This is absolutely fascinating and left me wondering why all this information was not part and parcel of the story itself. Below is an excerpt from this note.

“The many different trading routes together made up the greatest road of the ancient world, which linked the Mediterranean to Central Asia, travelled by Alexander the Great, Darius (the ‘King of Kings’) of Persia, Genghis Khan and Marco Polo. The Silk Road linked the Eastern Roman Empire in the west to China, at the height of its power and cultural glory during the T’ang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Travellers, merchants and adventurers from the west came in search of silk, which was valued as highly as gold.”
Author’s Historical Note: The Silk Road

Dragon Horse is a book that deserves to be read, it is educational, entertaining and will leave the reader wanting to know more about ancient China and the wonder that was The Silk Road. The jacket illustration is beautiful and will sell many copies all by itself.

With his father in military service, Peter Ward grew up in different places throughout England, Germany and the Far East. He was educated at Ampleforth College before graduating in English and Religious Studies from Leeds University, marking the start of a lifelong interest in Eastern mythology and religions.

His fascination with the culture and mythology of the East, especially China and tales set around the ancient Silk Road, inspired him to want to write his own stories. Dragon Horse is his first novel.

“Strides the length of the Silk Road. Ahead… lie dangerous journeys and desperate battles, treacherous enemies and loyal friends’ Books for Keeps

“If you only read one book this year make it this one! Gripping and absorbing!’ DMAG

‘Pacy, rich and satisfying’ writeaway.org.uk

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from Glasgow

10-stars

An awesome book, any fantasy lovers' dream - full of weird and wonderful, highly descriptive mythical beings. Can't wait for the sequel.

9.3/10 from 2 reviews

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