Friday, July 12, 2013

Sabaska's Tale by J.A. Campbell - review

Sabaska's Tale
J.A. Campbell
Tales of the Travelers #1

Cover - Isn't that a beautiful cover? I love everything about it - the horse, the landscape, the sky...the colors ...Hell, I love the writing font!  The cover is from the real life horse, Sabaska, owned by Campbell (r.i.p., Sabaska - and hope you're running with other horses up there)

an excerpt can be found here and by clicking on the book cover

Sigh.... I knew going in that this book has a very real horse as inspiration. So the story already had some meaning for me.  I also, like many young girls growing up, always loved the thought of a horse understanding everything you felt, or said.  My sister was the one who absolutely LOVED horses, I always thought they were pretty magnificent beings, all big and beautiful and full of muscles and strength.....and my sister had many, many model horses that we used as horses for our barbie dolls.....

Anyway - I read an earlier incarnation of this story and enjoyed it, but J.A. Campbell took that story and turned it on its ear, coming up with a better streamline and tightened up story.  I really liked the other version - and this book is different, yet still has the basic villain and dangers as the original.  Seriously - if you have a young teen, older teen, Hell - IF YOU were ever a fan of horses, get this story.  You'll enjoy it.

Premise - Anna had this grandma who she was always very close with (already this reverberates with me, because I like to think that my granddaughter and I are pretty close - of course she's six years old, plenty of time), and has spent many summers with said gramma, riding horses and being with gramma.  Gramma had a horse ranch - many horses, complete with a pretty sweet stable, and plenty of land for the horses.  Unfortunately, Gramma has been in a fatal ....accident.... and now Anna is spending the summer at her house, selling off some of the horses and grieving for her lost grandmother.

This is where the trouble starts...

So - at first the book seems like it's going to be about a girl, and her growth over the summer; having to deal with her gramma's horses, her death, her estate, etc.  Seems like the book is going to be about her coming of age....and it is...Kind of.

She's meeting prospective buyers, some of them nice, one not so nice.  She has been working with Cody, a young man that her gramma had previously hired to help with the stable.  She's exercising the horses and beginning to notice some of the odd things her gramma has left behind when suddenly...

BAMMMMMM!  She's on Sabaska's back, after escaping the house and the intruders...travelling between different worlds and meeting different people.  She has some amazing adventures, some more heart ache, and lots of danger.  She's not just learning some life lessons....she's learning some LIFE lessons.  

See - Sabaska isn't just a horse....if you can say that about any horse.  Sabaska is from a line of horses who have evolved on a different world into a species of intelligent (look, all horses are more than most people think....but Sabaska's fellow horses are Travelers) horses who can travel between worlds, and bond with a human, forming a partnership to help keep danger at bay.  Anna learns this in an abrupt and on-the-job-training type of way.  She already had been getting some strange feelings about Sabaska - the horse seemed to understand more than most horses, seemed to anticipate what Anna wanted before Anna was even sure what she wanted, and most telling of all - seemed to be able to communicate her own needs to Anna.

I love the way this novel is written; from the prologue where you're given a hint of things to come, to the beginning where things seem so normal, to the start of the fantastical nature of the Travelers and those hunting Sabaska.  The narration is great - no info-dumping, which is one of my pet peeves.  Campbell manages to get her point across without pages and pages of info-dumps.  The dialog is also great - This is another one of my pet peeves, dialog that does not match characterization.  Campbell's characters sound and read like their personalities.  A teen speaks like a teen, a mage from another realm speaks a little differently - appropriately so.  This shows talent, being able to write different characters with different voices.

There's a couple of swear words, if people are worried about that sort of thing (I'm not), all in keeping with the mood of the moment, there's no gratuitous swearing.  And you also won't find gratuitous romance, or needless making out sessions.  Her main character is beginning to notice the physique of the young men around her, but it doesn't overwhelm or take over the story.  Rather it reminds me of those first sweet moments when you realize a boy (or girl, whatever your favorite flavor) is cute, and you might feel something for them.  Nicely done, in a world overly obsessed with lust and body parts. :)

From action to story to dialog to characterization - this novel has a lot to recommend it.  Campbell does an excellent job of writing a fantasy adventure complete with likable characters, both human and animal variety.  I'm looking forward to more of Anna and/or Sabaska's world, whatever Campbell decides to focus on - hopefully both.  :)  There are quite a few characters in this novel that I could totally see as main characters for future novels, or as stronger side characters.  I would love to read more about this group of characters.

This is currently available as an e-book.
J.A. Campbell is also the author of MANY short stories, as well as The Clanless series about a turned-in senior year vampire, Meg.  So far, there are two books in the series - Senior Year Bites, and Summer Break Blues.  They are among my favorite YA novels.  In fact, it's books like J.A. Campbell writes that has me delving into the YA realm of reading material - I never used to read YA before.

Campbell is also the writer of those fun Doc the Vampire Hunting Dog books, and Brown, the Ghost Hunting Dog stories.  Both dogs are Border Collies, and everyone knows (or should know) that Border Collies can hypnotize you with their eyes.....

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