Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review - On a Wing and a Dare by Lina Ulleseit


Flying's what comes after the wizards, after the vampires, after the Games. In Tremeirchson, a barn leader’s children are expected to follow their parents into the sky, becoming riders of the magnificent winged horses that are the medieval Welsh village’s legacy. Neither Emma nor Davyd, however, want to follow that tradition.

Sixteen-year-old Emma risks losing her family by following her heart. Eager to take her place in the air, she longs to ride a forbidden winged colt born in barn of her father’s biggest rival. She also dreams of the rival’s sons, not sure which she truly loves. Bold and exciting, Evan will someday lead his father’s barn. Davyd is quieter, more dependable, with an ability to get things done. Her father disapproves of both boys and pushes her toward an ambitious newcomer. He also insists she ride the colt he’s picked for her.

Davyd, also sixteen, is plagued with a secret—he is afraid of heights. Refusing to become a rider means public humiliation, his parents’ disappointment, and lifelong ridicule from his brother, Evan. He reluctantly prepares to join his family aloft in the Aerial Games that provide the entire village with its livelihood and tries desperately to think of an alternative.
As Tremeirchson’s barns prepare for the Rider Ceremony, winged horses suddenly start dying. Shocked, the adults hesitate, mired in tradition and politics. Is it a disease or poison? Accidental or purposeful? Someone must discover the answer and act before all the winged horses in the world are gone forever.


As she fastened the leather strap of the helmet, Emma felt a moment of doubt. Her father would disapprove. And her mother might need help with Rhys. But Davyd had been a friend forever, and he needed her. She shooed him out of the stall so she could slip on the divided skirt with its unfamiliar green and gold pattern.

Turning to Wynne, she stroked the mare’s nose and talked to her, watching the ears twist to catch the words. “This is going to go well, Wynne. I know it is.” She knew the mare but had never been alone with her. She knew how to ride, but had never done so alone. “My father won’t ever know. It’s not your fault, Wynne, del. My father just doesn’t understand how I long for the sky, or how much I want to be a real part of the barn. He wants a serf, not a daughter.”Continuing to pet the horse, Emma moved around her, admiring the snowy mane and silver-tipped wings in a soothing tone. Wynne ignored her. “We can do this, girl, together.”

Shouts from the courtyard told Emma time was running out. Morgan’s barn was preparing to take flight. She took a deep breath, muttered a hasty invocation to Rhiannon, and led Wynne from the stall. Ten horses in various stages of being mounted milled about the yard. It was easy to find her place and swing up into the saddle like she’d done it a thousand times. Trying not to draw Morgan’s gaze, she kept her head down and fiddled with her reins.

“Cutting it pretty close, Elen. Everything all right?” a rider asked.

Emma grinned. He’d mistaken her for Wynne’s regular rider! She nodded and waved to him, pretending to adjust something on the saddle so that she could turn her back instead of answering.

A trumpet sounded, and the horse beneath her tensed. Emma gathered the reins and gripped Wynne with her legs. For an instant her heart fluttered, then they were galloping to liftoff, then gliding above the ground. As Wynne stroked powerful wings to gain altitude, Emma’s heart sang.

Author Bio

Linda Ulleseit was born and raised in Saratoga, California. She currently lives in San Jose with her husband. They have two adult sons and two yellow Labradors. Linda enjoys cooking, cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with her family.

Linda is a sixth grade teacher at James Franklin Smith Elementary School, where her students were some of the early reviewers of her books. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Someday Linda hopes to see books written by former students alongside hers in bookstores.

As a child, Linda always loved to write. She took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007. At that time, she gave the first draft of a flying horse book to a teacher colleague to read. ON A WING AND A DARE began as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2009. It was revised with the help of reviewers on over the next two years. For NaNo 2011, Linda drafted the sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER

My Review

I love horses. I've always loved horses so when I came across this book about horses with wings, I was ecstatic! On a Wing and a Dare is an easy read about these magnificent creatures. Although they are in the story a lot, there is also a large focus on relationships. While the biggest relationship struggle is a love triangle between Emma and two brothers, Ms. Ulleseit also tugs at the heart strings while she delves into parent/child, parent/parent, and friendships. Of course, none are easy.

This book is an easy read with great descriptions of the winged horses and flying, but I would not say it is a light read. A plague among horses and people is the main antagonist and there is quite a bit of death and sorrow. But you know the author did her job when you can feel the fatigue of the people working tirelessly to save the village.

The only thing that bothered me, and this is just personal taste, is the point of view switching. The book begins with the POV hopping from Emma to David almost paragraph by paragraph. While I completely understand why Ulleseit chose to go this route (she's trying to get all angles of a super action packed beginning), it was a bit distracting. The good news is for POV sticklers, it doesn't continue that way, and the POV switches happen less frequently throughout the rest of the book.

Because of the themes of loss and kissy romance, I would definitely suggest this for older YA. You would have to determine if your child  is ready. I know my 14 year-old could read it just fine, but I will let my 11 year-old wait another year because of the romance scenes. Their not explicit by any means, but my child is just not ready for some of the detail. Or rather I'm not ready for her to read that level of detail.

Overall, this is a great book and easy read. I'll definitely be reading the squeal, In the Winds of Danger.



  1. Thanks for the review! I'm glad you liked the book. BOTH of my books will be free on Kindle April 18, 19, and 20.

    Linda Ulleseit

  2. Remind me and I'll tweet and facebook it.

    It really was a great story!