I chose this book for Paranormal Week at Joyfully Jay because I hadn’t ever read a book featuring a kelpie as a main character. It’s mostly a YA romance, but also an adventure and family drama.
Rin and his mother settled in the horse country of rural New York when he was just a babe. His mama’s family wasn’t excited she got pregnant out of wedlock and she took off when her partner disappeared. So, they had a tough life and his mama worked hard to buy a run-down farm that they converted to horse stables. Life took a good turn for several years as Rin’s mama’s horses won races and she boarded and trained horses for other owners. Until a car wreck left 14-year-old Rin temporarily unable to walk and his mama unable to keep up with the extra horses.
Fast forward months and years… They struggle along some more and Rin rehabs by walking on braced legs around their property—even out to the lake and woods his mama had always warned Rin not to visit. Rin collapses by the water’s edge and meets Blue, an unexpectedly civil kelpie. For those who aren’t familiar with kelpies, they turn into beautiful horses that entice unwary riders to climb on their backs, then gallop for their watery dens and drown their victims—who become lunch.
See, Blue had planned to eat Rin, but the metal braces would have kept Blue from snacking on Rin’s wasted legs. It turns out, most metals burn a kelpie’s skin. On the plus side, Blue thought Rin was attractive, and was surprised and pleased Rin could hear his thoughts. Blue’s otherwise mute except for his horse noises. Having a telepathic connection to his meal wasn’t ideal, but Blue was lonely and Rin was lonely and, well, they became friends. Over the next couple of years, by the time Rin turns sixteen, their attractions are mutual. Rin’s also gained enough strength to walk again—slowly, and with pain, He’s not strong enough to ride regular horses, but he can ride Blue, thanks to Blue’s kelpie magic that keeps his rider seated. Blue has taken to spending much of the time with Rin and his mama, sharing meals at the dinner table and sleeping in Rin’s room/bed at night.
By the time Rin is 19, he and Blue are dedicated partners—and both are working to keep their farm from foreclosure. There are two mares and a boarding stallion, but he’s too mean to make good breeding stock. Even Blue has trouble with the ‘demon’ horse, and he’s able to shift into horse form! Their neighbor, and the owner of the demon stallion, catches Blue in his horse form one day and accuses Rin’s mama of not paying a stud fee and keeping a secret foal. This leads to a daring plan that puts Rin in an unlikely position…with Blue masterminding the whole thing.
This really is a fun story, with a touch of romance between Rin and Blue. Turns out Rin’s daddy likely was a Fae, and there are some other lesser fae that get involved in the horse dealings. I loved how committed this odd family was to staying together, and Blue, who is a taciturn trickster, overcoming his fears of discovery to assist Rin and his mama make enough money to stay on their farm by his lake. This is the first book in a series, though I don’t know if these characters will repeat in later stories. It’s not a particularly sexy book, but it’s well-imagined and the world and characters felt fresh. It was fun to be in Blue’s head. He fell hard for his “snack,” aka Rin, and is rewarded with love and a family that he’d been missing since his family lake had been poisoned when he was young.
We get a rescue mission, too, because Rin and Blue must travel into the Underhill, the world of the Fae and other creatures, in order to actually save the farm and…people. It’s a romp that also leads to Rin learning his true paternity. I don’t want to spoil this, because it was so fun and engaging. Rin and Blue go back and forth with snarky journaling, and it becomes a running joke from beginning to end.
A lot of the backstory is revealed upfront, yet in a way that doesn’t slow the pacing of the book. Knowing that more books are coming, I’d definitely read on.