‘The Rider’s Reign: A Rose Legacy Novel’ by Jessica Day George is a fitting ending to a lovely middle grade, horse-filled fantasy

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“The Rider’s Reign: A Rose Legacy Novel” is the final book in the trilogy that began with “The Rose Legacy,” the book that is also the title of the three-book series. In it we learn of a world in which some humans can communicate with horses. And any horse-loving human reading this trilogy would only wish that this was, indeed, a real thing. Talking to horses — how amazing would that be?

The main character, Anthea, had a troubled childhood. She had lived with her aunt and uncle after being passed from relative to relative because she has no parents. Finally, she is sent to the north, to a farm, where she learns to her horror that there are horses. You see, in the kingdom of Coronam, horses are feared and hated as the cause of a plague that decimated the land. But what Anthea finds out is that she has the ability to communicate with horses, and in fact, has a horse named Florian that she had bonded with as a baby.

Florian is important throughout the trilogy, as are other horses and humans. Finn is the leader (not-quite king) of the once-independent land of Leana. Jilly is Anthea’s cousin, and she grew up on the horse farm. The adult characters are not as clearly drawn as the children, but George cleverly shows that not all adults are as they might first appear. She manages that brilliantly with Jilly’s mother, Cassandra, who performs quite an admirable about-face during this novel.

This last book is really filled with action and danger as the three children, Anthea, Jilly, and Finn fight to return to Coronam from the country of Kronenhof. They had set off in search of stolen horses as well as the Coronam princess who was kidnapped at the end of the second book. While all three children are important characters, it’s Anthea who is definitely the main character, and whose character grows and develops over the course of the trilogy. As was pointed out in the review of “The Rose Legacy,” when we first meet Anthea, she is fairly unlikable. But by the end of the trilogy, she is everything one might imagine a hero to be: courageous, self-sacrificing, a true friend, kind to all animals, and intelligent.

This is a wonderful trilogy for animal-loving children from 3rd grade through 7th grade. Because of the content, it should interest a wide range of ages. I struggle with whether boys would enjoy it as much as girls, and I think that while George does spend a bit of time describing the girls’ outfits, there is enough adventure and action and enough male characters to interest boy readers, too. It’s an unfortunate fact that while girls read books with male main characters all the time, boys are more hesitant to read books in which the main character is female.

This is a great addition for school libraries and classroom shelves!

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Bloomsbury, the publisher, for review purposes.

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