Bridle the Wind



Book: Bridle the Wind

Author: Joan Aiken

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, republished 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0385293013 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0385293011 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0152060589 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0152060588 Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Aiken, JoanBridle the Wind (Published in 1983 by Delacorte Press, 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York City, NY  10017).  It is in the 1820s following the Napoleonic Wars, and thirteen year old Felix Brooke, orphaned son of an English soldier father and a Spanish noble mother, is on his way back to the house his grandfather, the Conde de Cabezada at Villaverde in the province of Glicia, Spain after visiting his other grandfather and family in England.  However, his ship is wrecked off the coast of France.  Suffering loss of memory which lasts about three months, he is taken in by monks of the nearby island monastery of St. Just de Seignanx to recover from his ordeal.  The Abbot, Father Vespasian, is cold and forbidding.  While there, Felix rescues a mysterious Spanish boy his own age named Juan Esparza from hanging by a dangerous gang of bandits called the Mala Gente who had kidnapped him for ransom.

Felix finally decides that the two boys are actually being held prisoner by the Abbot, so they escape.  Father Vespasian chases after them but appears to drown in the high tide while trying to follow them to the mainland.  Felix plans to take Juan to his uncle’s home in Pamplona before returning to his own grandfather’s estate.  However, they find that the same brigands who tried to hang Juan are pursuing them—and sometimes it looks as if the sinister Abbot Vespasian is with the bandits.  Whom can they trust to help them?  Do they manage to elude their enemies?  Or will they get caught?  Joan Aiken, author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, creates a historical novel with adventure, mystery, suspense, and a sense of eeriness.  There are some references to drinking wine and a touch of the supernatural, but overall it is a very enjoyable book.

However, Aiken gives a good picture of the sharp Pyrenees Mountains and the Basque people who inhabit them as the two boys make their way through Southern France and Northern Spain, along with fascinating tidbits of the region’s history and folklore.  Bridle the Wind is actually Book 2 of the “Felix Brooke” series, yet I read it without knowing that there was a prequel, and it made perfect sense.  In Book 1, Go Saddle the Sea, the young half-Spanish, half-English orphan finds fortune and misfortune in the course of an adventurous journey from his home in Spain to England.  And in Book 3, The Teeth of the Gale, Felix, now eighteen, sets out across the mountains of Spain to rescue three children kidnapped by their father, but finds that his rescue party is being followed, and fears that he and the children are being led into a trap.

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