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Grey Horse by R. A. MacAvoy
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Grey Horse

by R. A. MacAvoy

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R. A. MacAvoy's work came highly recommended in a LibraryThing thread about undeservedly forgotten fantasy literature. I, heeding the wisdom of my fellow LT fantasy fans, soon found time to read her 1987 novel The Grey Horse. I'm glad I did—this is an unusual story, successfully mixing faeries and romance with such incongruous elements as Irish nationalism, prodigal sons, horses, snobbery, and murder. Intrigued?

Ruairí MacEibhir, a fairy born of Wind and Stone, takes shape as a great gray native horse to insinuate himself into the stables of Anraí, a local trainer. When he transforms back into a man before the very eyes of Anraí and his stableman Donncha, neither expresses any great surprise that they now have a fairy in their barn. And a fairy who wants employment, at that. Ruairí wishes to assimilate himself into the world of men once more and marry Máire, the dark sister of the town's acknowledged belle. For Máire has fairy blood in her, and she is fair in Ruairí's eyes. But Máire is mixed up in the nationalist movement—a dangerous thing—and in any case has no interest in the men who usually swoon over her sister. Or men who turn into horses.

For a romance with some fantasy elements, there is precious little of it here. In that respect this story reminds me of Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series; the romantic subplot is a driving force in the story, but the scenes describing it are far and few between. And come to think of it, Ruairí is a bit like Gen in his merry nonconformity and general competence. Ruairí is a fascinating and distinctive hero, fey and engaging and just otherworldly enough. What makes him believable is his simple naïveté about the way humans do things. He undertakes to build a house for Máire, and it is a stunning revelation to him that roof materials and roofing labor can be purchased. He cheerfully converts to Roman Catholicism to please Máire (in a baptism quite terrifying for the brave priest—whoever heard of sprinkling holy water on a fairy?). And throughout, both Ruairí's sense of humor and faithful love for Máire are unfailing. It's hard not to root for him.

There are several interesting father-son relationships in the story. Anraí's son Seosamh is the prodigal who returns but never repents, causing his parents grief. Mr. Blondell, the local landlord, is also grieved by his young son Tobias, who hates his father's outdoor life until the day Ruairí starts training him to ride. Two fathers and two sons... though Anraí and Seosamh never reconcile (and indeed Seosamh denounces his father to the government agent), Blondell and Tobias are able to steady themselves after their relational stumbles.

A lot happens, but I would characterize the overall tone of the story as quiet and contemplative. MacAvoy has a keen eye for her characters' quirks and the little expressions and movements that convey a sense of their reality. Sensitive, intelligent, and vivid, The Grey Horse is an unassuming little story that will linger in my memory. I look forward to reading more of MacAvoy's work. ( )
3 vote wisewoman | Jul 29, 2011 |
A fabulous historical romance with a touch of magic. Ruairi the shapeshifter has come to claim a mate among the humans in the town of Carraroe. But, he's not after the twon's most beautiful girl - he wants her fiery sister! ( )
  jshillingford | Jul 17, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
R. A. MacAvoyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
DeMar, CharlesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the people of Carraroe
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The sky was full of the grey scum of a soup kettle on the boil.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553265571, Mass Market Paperback)

Set against the colorful and magical backdrop of Ireland, The Grey Horse chronicles a time when the Irish people suffered under harsh English overlords who sought to destroy their culture and way of life. Into the Irish town of Carraroe, a magnificent, completely grey stallion appears. The horse brings with him the promise of better times and magical happenings, for he is actually the shape-shifted form of Ruairi MacEibhir, journeyed to such a time of danger in order to win the hand of the woman he loves.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:38 -0400)

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