Flashback Friday Feature: Dark Horse by Mary H. Herbert (Traditional Fantasy)

by | March 21, 2014

In 1990, TSR (Wizards of the Coast) released Dark Horse, a traditional fantasy novel by Mary H. Herbert. Unlike many traditional novels written at the time — especially by a company dedicated to roleplaying games — this book targeted females without it being about romance, although there’s definitely a certain amount of romance presence.

This is Goodreads’ description of the book:

After her entire clan was massacred, a young woman assumes her brother’s identity and becomes a warrior – all to exact revenge upon the chieftain who ordered her family slain. But the chieftain, Lord Medb, has resurrected the forbidden art of sorcery and plans to destroy all who oppose him in this dark ages fantasy world.

Since I find that description so lackluster compared to what the book is about, I wrote my own version of the description.

Gabria befriends one of the Hunnuli, a breed of magical wild horses who refuse to accept anyone who is evil around them. Marked by a white lightning bolt on their black shoulders, these horses were once the partners of magic wielders, a profession long since illegal in the clans.

In order to seek vengenence on Lord Medb for the slaughter of her clan, she will do anything necessary — including disguising herself as a man, risking execution if she’s caught.

But Lord Mebd is not an easy man to slay, and Gabria’s success will require everything she has, including the magical abilities she didn’t even know she possessed…

The Lady Scribe’s Thoughts: This book has a bit of everything for everyone, and I definitely think it’s going to be enjoyed by men and women.

I have a funny story about these books. The first four in the set I acquired when they were really new. I still lived in the US. These books immigrated with me to Canada. One of the titles, Valorian, I had missed. This was no small source of anguish. Like Emerald House Rising, I hadn’t been able to find a copy of it.

With a little luck and a lot of searching on the internet, I ended up finding a mint copy of Valorian from a bookshop in the US. I had it shipped to my home.

UPS tried to charge me over $60 in fees for a $0.99 novel. Don’t come between Lady Scribe and her prized book. I went to war with UPS on it, and they overturned the customs ‘handling fee’ they were charging because they had to ‘open the box to confirm it was a novel.’

The book is one of the rare titles on my shelf still in mint condition. I read it very carefully so not to crack the spine. But in this era of easy-to-find copies of it… I’ll be buying a second copy so I can read it in the bathtub.

Dark Horse and Lightning’s Daughter are available as an omnibus edition called Valorian’s Children. City of the Sorcerers and Winged Magic are also available as an omnibus edition called Valorian’s Legacy.

All titles in the Dark Horse Series:

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