Summary and book reviews of Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic

Dark Horses

by Susan Mihalic

Dark Horses by  Susan   Mihalic X
Dark Horses by  Susan   Mihalic
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2021, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl's fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.

Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.

At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent's My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews's Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic's debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.

Sadly, the publisher was unable to provide an excerpt of this book.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. On page 4, Roan describes her father as "conditioned to superiority since conception. Montgomerys were exceptional." In what ways is Roan exceptional? How has she carried on this legacy? How has she changed it?
  2. Compartmentalization is a mental tool Roan's father taught her and is something she relies on throughout the novel. We first hear it on page 9, as she's coaching herself before competition ("Compartmentalize, I told myself in Daddy's voice. All that could wait...I had a job to do.) Later, on page 126, Roan describes leading thoughts of Will "into one of the stalls in my mind." How does this skill serve her well? What happens in the moments she doesn't compartmentalize? Do you think it's a skill that ultimately saves her, or is it ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It's an uncomfortable book from start to finish, and I would strongly advise that you exercise caution in deciding whether the rewards of reading this sound like they will outweigh the costs. It's graphic at times, and it will make your skin crawl, though it's never gratuitous. The world that Susan Mihalic creates is insular and suffocating as she skillfully places the reader entirely into Roan's life. Dark Horses is not for everyone, but in its harrowing yet sensitive portrayal of abuse and resilience, it's a beautiful and memorable novel for the right reader...continued

Full Review Members Only (628 words).

(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

OprahMag.com
A Most Anticipated Books of 2021: [A] heart-pounding, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it debut novel.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Mihalic's taut, bracing debut takes a daringly understated approach to its exploration of sexual abuse...The novel takes every narrative hurdle as nimbly and astonishingly capably as Roan does the courses she rides. This is a powerhouse.

Booklist (starred review)
Mihalic is an expert in creating narrative drive; the urge to keep reading is powerful...A provoking and needed book.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A searing examination of love and lust, power and control, as the narrator’s rising sense of self yearns to take the reins.

Library Journal (starred review)
Mihalic astutely builds her absorbing debut novel... a narrative that reaches shattering heights. Deftly sketching the relationships here (including the relationship between horse and rider), Mihalic gives a powerful and insightful account of Roan’s abuse and her path to freedom.

Author Blurb Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
Dark Horses is a pulse-pounding, unflinching tale of one teenaged girl's iron-willed determination to wrest control of her life from her abuser. Roan Mongtomery's sweeping and raw story of courage, resilience and clear-eyed grace will never leave me.

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Beyond the Book

Olympic Equestrian Eventing

Rider on a horse jumping a logEventing, sometimes described as an equestrian triathlon, became an Olympic summer sport at the Stockholm Games in 1912, but before that, it had its roots in the military as a series of exercises developed to test and prepare cavalry horses. Equestrian sports date back much further, in some cases all the way back to the ancient Olympics, which featured chariot and mounted races. Polo, too, has existed in some capacity for hundreds of years, and briefly became an Olympic event in the early 20th century, though it was removed from the program in 1936.

Eventing combines three phases — dressage, cross-country and show jumping — which must be completed within three days by the same horse and rider pair. Dressage is held first and ...

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