2 out of 4 stars
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Written by Leslie Berry, Jr., The Dappled Grey Stallions is a novel set in the South during the Reconstruction era. George is a young man growing up in Louisiana. Like most men his age, George is interested in girls; he's particularly fond of Sally, a mulatto girl he has known for years. However, George has another love: training horses. George’s love for horses is tested when Sunset, his dappled grey colt, dies suspiciously. Throughout the novel, George learns to train horses, and he uses his skills to build a business. Most things come easy for George, but when a jealous rival tries to steal Sally and his beloved horses, George is forced to embark on a journey through the treacherous Texas wilderness.
This novel has many elements of a wonderful story. The setting is well developed and takes on its own characterization: the harsh outdoor elements and desolate lands made for an immersive backdrop for George’s story. Further, added elements of romance and adventure, along with a touch of mystery, set the stage for George to develop from a boy to man in an unusual manner. As the story progresses, George experiences difficult situations that make the plot less straightforward and, therefore, more interesting. Overall, the bones of an epic coming-of-age story are found in this novel.
Unfortunately, The Dappled Grey Stallions didn’t live up to its full potential. Cardboard characters, lackluster story development, and a hasty narrative made it difficult to be swept up in the story. For example, after finishing the book, I had no sense of who the characters really were. Character development was limited to background information about heritage and quick details about appearance; there was no organic development or thoughtful-depth given to the characters. Even George, the protagonist, is only a vague outline of a person. Sadly, the female characters were given even less attention. The three females in the novel were minimized to nothing more than dimples, curves, and cascading hair. As for the pacing, events happen very quickly, problems are resolved easily, and major plot points are mostly obvious and expected. These flaws made it difficult to feel attached to the story.
Moreover, the author begins the book with an introduction that includes information about the different types of people that occupied parts of the South during the late 1800s, the period in which the book is set. I was excited to see how the relationships between the white settlers, natives, creoles, and mulattos would play out in the story. However, the themes of racial tension and social class that the author hints at in the introduction were almost completely neglected. For instance, it is revealed that George has African blood in his family, but this concept never seems to impact his life or take root as a plot point.
In line with the general lack of depth, the writing was mostly basic and unrefined. The narrative is plagued with similarly speaking characters, stilted language, and uninspired descriptions. Additionally, there were a few grammatical errors in the text, though they were not egregious. Due to the shallow nature of this book, I’d only recommend it to young adult readers interested in historical fiction set during the Reconstruction period. Although there were many flaws, The Dappled Grey Stallions has the bones of an interesting story, so I’m rating it 2 out of 4 stars.
The Dappled Grey Stallions
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