THE WILD ONE, by Terri Farley, Aladdin, March 21, 2023, Paperback, $7.99 and Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)
Some 20 years after it was first published, Terri Farley’s Phantom Stallion series returns with a new cover and bonus material in The Wild One.
When 13-year-old Samantha returns home to her family’s cattle ranch in Nevada, she’s nervous. She moved away two years ago to recover from a bad fall off her beloved mustang, Blackie, and she’s still not sure she can get back in the saddle. She’s having trouble bonding with her new horse, Ace, the other ranchers treat her like the boss’s spoiled daughter, and Blackie has been missing since the day of Sam’s fateful accident.
But that’s just the beginning. On a moonlit night, a mustang comes to Sam. Is it Blackie grown up and gone wild — or the legendary phantom stallion? When Sam suddenly finds the fate of the horse resting in her hands, she has to be a real cowgirl, ready or not. —Synopsis provided by Aladdin
The Wild One may have been around for 20 years, but this is my first encounter with the first book in a series about a girl, her horse and the American West. And after reading it, it’s not hard to see why the Phantom Stallion series has stood the test of time.
Take your pick.
Of course, you can’t have good story without a strong character. And in The Wild One, you get two — Sam and the mysterious mustang.
Sam is a strong girl who more than anything wants to please her father. She knows his strict rules are in place for a reason, even if she forgets them sometimes. After being away for two years, Sam reintegrates with the ranch remarkably well. Especially since she’s immediately thrown back in. I understand her father’s reasoning behind all this, but he’s not exactly a “warm” character and seems to expect a lot from a kid who’s been gone for two years. Of course, this allows for Sam’s story to unfold, so it’s necessary. Sam’s grit helps her stand out among other contemporary protagonists.
Through Sam, readers also get to know mustang. While the story is told from Sam’s point of view, she gives you a true sense of the mustang and his mindset.
Other supporting characters — Jake (a young horse trainer), Dad and Gram — are explored enough to feel like more than props but have room to grow in further books.
The Wild One is the sort of book that will appeal to budding and fully fledged horse lovers. It’s got mystery and adventure and a lot of heart. And at just over 300 pages, it’s a good choice heading into summer.
There are 24 books in the Phantom Stallion series, and it looks like Aladdin will be revisiting at least three of them — Mustang Moon is slated for a July 5 release and Dark Sunshine on Oct. 10.
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