Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Classics Club #3: The Black Stallion Returns

This August, The Classics Club hosted their third “spin”: where members would list twenty classics they had yet to read in some numerical order, and approximately a week after they announced their list, The Classics Club itself would announce the “lucky spin number”. The number chosen for this go-round was 4—which, according to my list, meant I’d read The Black Stallion Returns by Walter Farley before October 1.

I already knew that the book was pretty different from the 1983 movie adaptation starring Kelly Reno and Vincent Spano, but I don’t know if I was quite sure how much. The book begins with a midnight attack on the famous part-Arabian black stallion who, only a month or so ago, defeated Cyclone and Sun Raider in the match race of the century. Henry Dailey, Alec Ramsay’s equestrian mentor, finds a hypodermic needle in the Black’s stall, which is later confirmed to be filled with poison. The following day, Abu Ja‘ Kub ben Ishak arrives in Flushing, New York, to claim the Black as his own Shetan—a prized stallion he bred in Arabia. Alec, determined not to let Black leave forever, enlists the help of Mr. Volence (owner of Sun Raider), and the threesome set out on an adventure to Arabia to find ben Ishak and see if there is any possibility that he will sell the Black—or any of his other rare and magnificent equines. But once Alec reaches the edge of the Great Central Desert, a flurry of intrigue descends upon them. Ben Ishak is deadly enemies with the owner of the swift chestnut stallion Sagr, winner of the great Arabian race five years ago and the Black’s fastest competitor in the same upcoming challenge. The man believes ben Ishak, once best friends with his father, killed his family on their pilgrimage to Mecca years ago, and seeks blood revenge. Yet still lurking in the background is the midnight attack on the Black—who did it and why? Does it somehow tie in to all the other intrigue going on around ben Ishak’s kingdom?

As you can see from the short synopsis above, the book is filled to the brim with an exciting plot and subplots, even though it’s only a little over two hundred pages long. I actually enjoyed this book even more than the movie (where Alec annoys me extremely), and wished that the director, producer, and screenwriter would have recognized its superiority over their own decided story. Farley’s dialogue still irritates me—it’s too “familiar”—and Alec is still annoying, but not nearly as bad as in the movies. Actually, none of the characters are very well fleshed-out—probably because Farley intended it for younger grades. The plot was beautiful and probably more exciting than its precedent, The Black Stallion.

I’ll give it a rating of 8.

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