{Leah Reviews} The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

Posted November 7, 2016 by Leah in Reviews / 13 Comments

{Leah Reviews} The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

by Megan Shepherd
Pages: 192
Published on October 11th 2016
by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genres: Middle Grade, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.      One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own.      Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

3.5 Stars

I got this book for the horses. They’ve always had a special place in my heart, and The Secret Horses of Briar Hill looked like a middle grade novel after my own heart. The story was very touching and should be read by many.

Emmaline is our narrator. She is both naive yet worldly, a child who had to grow up quickly as she makes a new life in a hospital during World War II. She is surrounded by children who also have “the stillwaters,” but she’s different from them in one way: she can see winged horses in the mirrors of the hospital. While they serve as a positive note in Emmaline’s life, their presence has a meaning even Emmaline couldn’t imagine.

This is a story of how war shapes people. The location may be a hospital but the children are just as affected by the war as their families. Some of the children have fathers fighting. Some are war orphans. Emmaline herself has been affected by the fighting. The characters each bring a history to the hospital that defines them.

This is a middle grade novel, but The Secret Horses of Briar Hill packs powerful meaning for everyone. It is a story of loss and death. Emmaline’s life is not easy. She’s surrounded by illness. Her dearest friend Anna is very sick. When she meets one of the winged horses in the hospital garden, it brings danger. But this book is also about hope. There are many heartbreaking moments, yet as Emmaline protects Foxfire, the winged horse, from a sinister Black Horse, Emmaline proves she has inner strength to fight for what she believes in.

The ending is ambiguous. I don’t like this considering the circumstances of Emmaline and the other children. Are the horses real or imagined? Megan Shepherd has an author’s note at the end where she states that it’s up to the reader to decide what happens. I needed closure, and yet I can’t help but think that it’s for the best that it is left up to the reader to decide.



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13 responses to “{Leah Reviews} The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

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    • Leah

      I’m so glad there are more horse loving readers! 🙂 The cover was what first grabbed my attention and after reading the plot, I had to check this one out.

  2. Liza

    I wanted to read this one since I saw the cover and I’m glad you liked it Leah. However, one of the things that I don’t like is open endings.

    • Leah

      This one really needed a confirmed ending, but the book overall was very good and should be read (hopefully) by many.

  3. I don’t usually read MG books but this cover is GORGEOUS. I’m intrigued, though. Especially because it does leave an open interpretation at the end. That’s an interesting thing to do with a book for younger readers. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I might check this one out

    • Leah

      Isn’t that cover breathtaking? The writing is just as beautiful as the cover. I hope you like it if you check it out. 🙂

  4. I’m not really into MG books these days (though there are some great ones out there!) but this book seems pretty cute. I just don’t know if I would like the ambiguous ending. I’m usually not a huge fan of those.

    • Leah

      I feel like I rejoined the MG world at a good time, and I’m always amazed by the covers most of them get. This book was a good one, but yes, closure was needed for that ending. 🙂

  5. I am so interested in this book! I have an advance copy but still haven’t gotten around to reading it just because I was worried about the middle grade writing. You definitely make me want to pick it up though! I love the idea of the horses! Great review 😀

    • Leah

      Oh, the writing! It is very lyrical and one of the strengths of the book. I hope you get a chance to check it out. 🙂

    • Leah

      I have mixed feelings about open endings (ambiguous storylines I do enjoy), but I feel that this book needed a definite ending, and it also deserves to be read by a wide audience. 🙂

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