Title: Horse Goddess
Author: Morgan Llywelyn
Publication: 1982 by Tor Books
Troy is a crumbling ruin and Athens is rising far to the south. It is a time where mortal men and women are becoming gods and goddesses as news of their extraordinary adventures sweeps across the land. In this world, Epona, a woman whose life is celebrated in legend, meets Kazhak, a Scythian warrior and prince. Their stormy love affair sends them sweeping across eight-century Europe, pursued from the Alps to the Ukraine by Kernunnos–a mysterious Druid priest known as the “Shapechanger.”
What I Thought About It . . .
Morgan Llywelyn has been a hit and miss author to me. However, I do love that she writes about Ireland and Celtic stories so I continue to read more because I refuse to be discouraged. Of the books I have read by her, I do like Horse Goddess the best. To be honest I didn’t really know anything of Epona prior to reading this story. . . But this was a title I found by chance in the stacks at a favorite used bookshop. It was one of those titles I kept seeing still housed on the shelf even after months of visiting and then I finally decided that I would be buying it and giving it a try. I was not disappointed and this looks like a book I’ll be keeping on the shelves instead of passing it along to someone else who might like it more than me.
This book took some time to really hook me in to the narrative, but once it did I was reading it with an appetite. What I do like about Llywelyn’s novels is how she brings legendary figures to life in a setting that feels real with all the trials that must be faced. Although “magic” is a part of her world, it is not used to make Epona’s sorrows any less. If anything it makes her life even harder.
Like Epona herself, her people change in her absence due in part to her actions. And obviously in a more drastic way than she impacted the nomads during her stay with them. Still I liked that Kazhak didn’t really change much at all because do you honestly think someone with such deeply ingrained views on the inferiority of women is going to change overnight? This utter clash of cultures was realistic, I thought.
One thing that stuck out to me was how Llywelyn described Epona’s “life-making” encounters. It does come off as forced or flowery, or overly descriptive to the point where you’re wanting to skip to the next page. I think this stood out to me because I read a lot of romance novels where the sex often runs the gauntlet of meticulous descriptions.
I don’t see the Shapechanger as an evil individual either. I mean, he was pretty foresighted in the end since he sensed how the presence of the nomads among the Kelti would change them, and his prediction was correct. Antagonistic at times, yes, but not evil.
I think I would have liked to hear more about the time that Epona spent among the horses… I don’t mean to say that there wasn’t any lengthy description of it, but I would have just liked to seen a good deal more of it. Yet then again I like horses so I wouldn’t mind it. I don’t know about other readers.