This story contains enough fighting with slimy, supernatural creatures to satisfy any action-loving young teen (girl OR boy). And it builds to a genuinely rousing climax. But what makes it special is that the Del Toro family are aided in their centuries-old struggle – in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo mountains – by Andalusian war horses. Who can talk.
This might sound too Disney-cute for words. It isn’t. Turk is cocky and aggressive. Izzy won’t be ignored just because she’s a ‘girl’. And El Cid possesses a gravitas that makes him especially memorable. (His quizzical ‘Really?’ when asked to be extra careful before a fight is a delight.) These horses are real characters and demand to be treated as such.
Then there’s the romance between our 12-year-old hero Matt and Perry, a girl who’s visiting the area. I usually skip these sections because they so often fall back on cliché – hot babe, cool dude. Not here. There’s no babe- or dude-ness to either of them. Perry is clever and curious. Matt worries about making the right impression. There’s a delicacy in these chapters as the relationship progresses that’s both charming and totally captivating.
And the book just has one of the best titles ever: straight into my Top 10.