For anyone who has ever read McCaffrey's work, Black Horses is an
enjoyable read. It is not the typical Arthurian story, taking place more on the sideline
of the main plot rather than directly with the legends. McCaffrey is a lover of horses and
Black Horses is really more a horse story than about Arthur. With a little push and
taking a subplot from Sutcliff, McCaffrey gives us a simple story of a young man caught up
in the legend, destined to help Lord Artos acquire horses large enough to mount his knights.
The story takes place in the early years of Artos rise and follows some of the newer
directions of returning Arthur to his Romano-Celtic roots rather than the medieval warrior
king of Malory (and Hollywood).
Galwyn Varianus, is the son of a bankrupted aristocrat. After his father's
death, he is apprenticed to his uncle, a disreputable merchant, to begin a career as a
seaman merchant. But Galwyn is drawn to Lord Artos when he comes aboard on a horse buying
trip to Septimania. Using his talents with language and his enthusiasm, he assists Lord
Artos during the voyage and later jumps ship to join him. The plot lines are not dense.
McCaffrey draws us along on the journey as Galwyn grows and becomes Arthur's first
farrier, the smith that takes care of horses and their shoeing, or as the Roman called
them, iron sandals.
The book is a quick read and is youth oriented.