The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, A Review:

With its dark legends and passionate history, the windswept shores of Scotland are an archaeologist’s dream. Verity Grey is thrilled by the challenge of uncovering an ancient Roman campsite in a small village. But as soon as she arrives, she can sense danger in the air.

 Her eccentric boss, Peter Quinnell, has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he’s finally found it – not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has ‘seen’ a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.

 Surprisingly, Verity believes in Peter, and the boy, and even in the Sentinel, who seems determined to become her own protector...but from what?


The book title references 'the shadowy horses' taken from W.B. Yeat's The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). The Shadowy Horses are representations of the supernatural world, 'the horses of disaster' or the coming of the apocalypse. 'The Horses of Disaster' are the internal manifestation of 'The Shadowy Horses.' The poem represents longing and yearning for someone's 'beloved' and the connection to death. Also, the connection to 'the sidhe' can be addressed in this story as well. I couldn't help thinking of the Walter Crane painting as I was reading the poem: 

Walter Crane's Horses of Neptune, 1892

The Wind Among the Reeds by W.B. Yeats (The Shadowy Horses)

I HEAR the Shadowy Horses, their long manes a-shake,

Their hoofs heavy with tumult, their eyes glimmering white;

The North unfolds above them clinging, creeping night,

The East her hidden joy before the morning break,

The West weeps in pale dew and sighs passing away,

The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire:

O vanity of Sleep, Hope, Dream, endless Desire,

The Horses of Disaster plunge in the heavy clay:

Beloved, let your eyes half close, and your heart beat

Over my heart, and your hair fall over my breast,

Drowning love’s lonely hour in deep twilight of rest,

And hiding their tossing manes and their tumultuous feet

'The Shadowy Horses' is written from the first person perspective narrated by the protagonist and heroine, Verity Grey. When her former lover urges her to join a dig in the tiny fishing village of Eyemouth, Scotland, an archeologist herself, she leaves her position with the British Museum. An independent, free spirit is Verity who meets many fascinating men along her journey, some who become friends and colleagues, one who may become a love interest. Sadly, it was not the one I was hoping for.

There are many mythological and literary references throughout this well written story. It is a time-slip novel and one of the storylines takes the reader back to AD 60/61 during the days of Boudica, the Legio IX Hispania and whether or not the Ninth Legion really existed. All fascinating reading and Susanna Kearsley has done her homework. I should know I ran to my computer and did some searches for the Ninth Legion; all a bit out of my depth. One beautiful aspect to this storyline is that the novel is broken up into five parts called 'horses' where you will find excerpts of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, 'In Memoriam.' Brilliantly done is how 'The Sentinel' mention from In Memoriam could be supported by becoming part of the subplot to 'The Shadowy Horses.' I cannot give all away. Half the fun is finding these little gems for yourself. 

Although, I did enjoy 'The Shadowy Horses' immensely and highly recommend it, the aspect of the archaeological dig is a bit cliche and happenings fit together just a bit too smoothly; even if I did enjoy the humorous ghostly bits!

A Roman Sentinel

And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place
And whispers to the worlds of space
In the deep night that all is well
Tennyson, In Memoriam, CXXV

. . and trust
With faith that comes of self-control
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved
Tennyson, In Memoriam, CXXX

NOTE:  Do pay attention to a character named Robbie, for he has returned in The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley, due out in the UK on 28 January, 2013.  

For more information, Susanna Kearsley

Please feel free to leave comments,


Maggie Peters said…
I've read this and enjoyed it. I didn't know about Yeats but recognized Tennyson. Such a good review and I'll add The Firebird to my TBR list.
Kevin Marsh said…
Hello kimberly,

this sounds good,will have to read Susanna Kearsley.


Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Maggie,
I've just started The Firebird and I'm enjoying it so far!

Hi Kevin,
I hope you enjoy her books!

Thank you both for commenting.

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