CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 13. . . .November 27, 2009.
Heartbreak Hills. (Wild Horse Creek, #3).
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2009.
123 pp., pbk., $8.95.
detective and mystery stories-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Eileen Wortley.
“Stop! Stop, you!”
Liv’s heart pounded. She leaned into Cactus Jack’s gallop. “This way!” she urged, heading him off the trail and down a steep incline. To her horror, the ground fell away in a sandy cliff in front of them. Too late to stop. Cactus Jack plunged off the edge of the gully.
Liv felt herself flying through the air. She had no time to prepare for a landing. As her body thudded into the side of the gully, she heard a pop and felt a searing pain in her left knee. Her ears rang with shock, but she could hear the sound of the ATVs screaming engine somewhere above her. “Quiet, Jack,” she hissed. “Stand Still.”
The three men must have come after her! Liv tried to reach for Cactus Jack’s reins, but the pain was too severe. She knew she would black out again if she tried to stand up. Liv bit her lip so hard she tasted blood. “Please, Jack,” she begged silently, please don’t move.”
Liv and Sophie, 13-year-old twins, each with a distinct personality despite their closeness, participate in their third adventure in the “Wild Horse Creek” series. In this story, they find their sojourn at Lucky Star Ranch, the setting for this series, is to end more abruptly than anticipated due to their mother’s pressing need to return to Canada. The twins are devastated, especially Liv, who has just been selected for a spot on the drill team, beating out many more experienced riders. Meantime, there are rumors of “human coyotes” in the area. These are people who smuggle illegal immigrants across the Mexican border and steal fine stallions which they train to fight, sometimes to the death. One night, unable to sleep, Liv hears a disturbance and sees footprints at their ranch and fears attempts are being made to steal Diego, the ranch stallion. That same day, out for an early morning ride, she comes across the “coyotes.” They give chase, and she and her horse, Calico Jack, plunge into a steep gully causing a disabling injury to Liv and putting an end to immediate riding ambitions. Later, Diego does go missing along with Shane, the 16-year-old ranch hand on whom both Liv and Sophie have a serious crush. In the light of the threat to the ranch and to Shane, Liv and Sophie put their petty rivalries aside in order to undertake a daring rescue in the old ghost town of Heartbreak Hills.
And so the formulaic ingredients that appeal to the readers of this series are once again mixed together to ensure readers’ avid attention. These ingredients include: thwarted riding ambitions, beautiful horses full of character, affection and rivalry between the twins, a love interest between both girls and Shane, the entrance of a new youth obviously enamored of Liv, and some obnoxious riding rivals. There is also a sudden illness of a grandparent, which leaves the ranch conveniently absent of adults, thereby enabling the twins to get up to all the adventures necessary to defeat the wicked coyotes and allow good to triumph over evil. Suspense is present throughout with every chapter ending with a cliffhanger.
From a technical viewpoint, the main characters in this title seem to be stereotyped and less credible than their original portrayal in Mystery Stallion where their delineation seemed above average for a series book. The solving of this crime seemed just a little too easy, and there was no real tension leading to the denouement. Furthermore, the romantic rivalry over the ranch hand is somewhat trite, and the sudden appearance of a new boyfriend for Liv is just a bit too convenient.
Doubtless these concerns will not deflect the enthusiasm of Sharon Siamon’s many horse loving fans, and this book will be enjoyed by those aged nine to twelve as have her other horse series, the “Saddle Island” and “Mustang Mountain” series. Sharon Siamon is one of Canada’s most prolific authors with over a million copies of her books having been sold in Canada, United States, Britain, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and France.
Recommended with reservations.
Eileen Wortley, a retired librarian, lives in Toronto, ON.
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