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A boy destined to lead his clan; a girl raised by wolves; a stranger with a sealed box. These are the elements of this powerful novel, set on a rocky northern coast in a distant time, in a small community who lives in dread of the coming of the legendary warrior tribe, the Dark Horse. Told in part by the boy, Sigurd, himself, it is a dark and dangerous story of conflict and betrayal. With its strong sense of time and place and the magic of a primitive people, THE DARK HORSE again confirms the exceptional talent of Marcus Sedgwick.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781858818849
ISBN-10: 1858818842
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 136mm x 16mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Orion Children's Books (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
Publisher: Hachette Children's Group
Publish Date: 15-May-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Shortlisted for both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Childrens Fiction Award, Marcus Sedgwick's novel has been compared to those of Alan Garner, and does not disappoint. Set in an unspecified time and place, the book tells of a time in the lifespan of the Storn, a tribe of fishermen and farmers who eke out a existence close to the shores of a great sea. The short chapters alternate between past, in the voice of Sigurd, and present, with the past episodes serving to explain the origins of Mouse, the girl child who understands what the animals and birds say and who is possessed of a powerful magic that no one quite understands. It is Mouse who first discovers the magical box on the shoreline as she and Sigurd, her adoptive brother, look for sea cabbage to supplement their meagre diet. Horn, the tribal Lawspeaker, forces Mouse to open the box as both he and Gudrun, the Spellmaker have failed in all their attempts to prise it open. When she does open it, easily and without force, it is seen to be empty, but only Mouse knows that a very powerful presence has been loosed. Sigurd, injured by a mysterious stampede of black horses, is brought back to the brochs by Ragnald, a tall stranger with white hair and black palms to his hands who says he is an entertainer and who claims the strange box is his. His arrival presages the downfall of the Storn and the terrifying truth of Mouses origins. The prose is sparse but rich. Marcus Sedgwick has brought off a tale that is compelling and shocking, a real page turner. Ages 8-11 (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » In spare, powerful prose, set in northern Atlantic lands, Sedgwick tells a coming-of-age story steeped in mystery and danger. Fifteen-year-old Sigurd lives with his tribe, the Storn, in an isolated coastal village. Four years earlier, an expedition hunting wolves had brought back a girl known as Mouse, apparently raised by wolves, and now adopted into Sig's family. Despite Mouse's reticence and three years difference in age, the two are close friends. Mouse remains an outsider to other villagers, in part because of her magical power to cast herself into the minds of animals. One day when the two are searching for sea cabbage to make up for the poor fishing that has plagued the village for years, they find a mysterious box. Soon a vicious stranger appears looking for the box, after which the village's relatively tranquility disappears with the coming of the Dark Horse, a host of warlike horsemen. The rush of events and onslaught of danger push Sig into manhood before his time as he takes on leadership of the Storn. At the same time, the Dark Horse prompts memories in Mouse that lead to a change of character and acts of betrayal that are inadequately foreshadowed and feel abrupt. Sig's first-person narrative, which include flashbacks that give background, alternate with short chapters of present-day action, with each chapter headed by a small, boxed illustration. Using short, strong words appropriate to the Nordic setting, Sedgwick (Witch Hill, not reviewed, etc.) crafts an effective tale that, despite the unconvincing transformation of Mouse, will draw readers in and keep them entranced. (Fiction. 10-14) (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick is a full time author. His first novel, Floodland, won the Branford Boase Award for the best debut children's novel of 2000. Since then his books have been shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award, the Costa Book Award, the Carnegie Medal and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Find his website at and follow him on Twitter @marcussedgwick.

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