Genre: middle grade historical fiction
Length: 288 pages
Setting: Mongolia during the time of Kublai Khan
Interest: It was Mr. Curiosity’s bedtime read aloud story. I picked it up originally because of its unique setting.
Summary: Oyana has never fit in with the rest of her village because of a crippled foot (a horse stepped on it as a baby). Her mother tried to keep her in the ger (the felt house), but she rebelled and started riding horses. Bad luck seemed to follow her – her father couldn’t find her a husband, she picked out an old, lame horse as her own (she named it Bayan), her mother died in a thunderstorm. When soldiers came and requisitioned her horse (among others), she goes with them to stay with Bayan. Eventually, she is sent off to carry an important package to the Khan, with many adventures on the way. She becomes friends with the Khan and makes her own luck, eventually winning the long race at Karakorum with Bayan’s filly.
Final thoughts: Mr. Curiosity and I really enjoyed this book. I loved that not only was the narrator a young girl, but she was disabled. She starts out reacting to every situation and gradually she takes charge of her life (she “makes her own luck”). By the end, she’s married to someone she loves, winning an important race, on a horse of her own choosing. The story is told by Oyana to her granddaughter. Turns out her granddaughter also has a disability (a lazy eye) and need some encouragement. The setting made for an interesting read as well, since I didn’t know too much about Mongolian culture.
The book worked fairly well as a read-aloud. The chapters were too long to read in one night, but the text read smoothly. There were exciting moments, but nothing too graphic, even for the sensitive child.
Title comes from: Oyana’s grandmother prophesied she’d get a fast white horse. It turned out to be Bayan’s filly she rode to victory in the long race.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 73/100 in my 100 Book Challenge
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