It was how his father died – trying to capture Diablo Blanco, fiercest stallion of the western hills. Roberto understood that this was the way of life; sometimes you capture the horse, sometimes it destroys you. But when Diablo kills Roberto’s grandfather as well, Roberto swears vengeance upon the creature. He will capture this notorious killer and humble him! And he, Roberto, will not fall as did his father and grandfather.
But can the boy match ferocity and skill with this killer stallion?
Horse stories fall into two categories in my mind. One category features little girls who are madly in love with horses and get the thrill of their life by winning a little trophy at a local club. The other category tells stories of historical significance with fuller, rawer emotions. I prefer the second category by far.
Wild Boy doesn’t really have historical significance. But it happens in a historical setting and the emotional journey traveled by Roberto is complex. He is a brave, capable boy who is embittered by the death of his grandfather. He decides to work his revenge on Diablo Blanco and spends months training and preparing before making his way to the field of conquest. As his hurt wears off, he comes to have more respect for the horses he handles and in the end, when faced with a dilemma, makes a mature decision.
There is a little bit of violence – in one scene Roberto witnesses a fight between two stallions.
“When the reached each other they were both walking on hind legs, their hoofs slashing like sharpened sledge hammers as they met.
They ripped each other’s hides. They tore at ears and jugular veins, and blood flowed crimson. Shrieks of pain rent the air…
The great Diablo knocked the dapple off his feet. Then he turned around instantly. As the dapple got up, the white stallion’s flying heels shot out with a crash that caved in the dapple’s rib cage. The suffering horse bellowed and staggered – with the killer Diablo over him in a flash, pawing him to death.” [pgs. 44-45].
A few pages later, Roberto’s grandfather falls while trying to capture Diablo Blanco.
“Grandfather!” Roberto cried. All he could do was watch as the frenzied stallion charged his grandfather, pawing him into the earth just as he had pawed the dappled stallion half an hour before. [pg. 47]
Later, Roberto stabs his enemy’s horse in the neck. We are told that the pony “stumbled instantly”, but are not told anything else about his condition.
A medicine man is present in one scene – he chants a little bit and claims to have powers, but nothing he does actually works.
Conclusion. Not quite as good as King of the Wind, but still good for horse lovers.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret