First, an administrative note: since we are so close to the end, I’m going to push through and this summer series will end in mid-fall instead of taking a break and then picking up next summer. I have some ideas for the next series to read but if you have anything you desperately want snarkily recapped, let me know!
Alec and the Black survive yet another plane crash only to be separated in the Caribbean. The Black finds his way to Azul Island for the ultimate crossover: a showdown with Flame.
First things first, for those keeping track at home, this is Alec and the Black’s second plane crash. This time, they’re on their way back from Europe, where they survived their trip to…wherever…and spent the rest of the time racing and kicking ass.
I mean. It’s pretty obvious from the first page that the plane is going to crash, but we still waste a stupid amount of time checking in with everyone, recapping who exactly Alec and Henry and the Black are, and meeting the doomed other groom in the plane. No worries, though, Henry’s cool as a cucumber.
One didn’t ride fast horses, both on the flat and over jumps as Henry had done, without developing confidence in an ability to get out of jams.
IDK, I’ve ridden fast on the flat and over jumps and would be scared shitless in a plane crash.
We learn that, well:
At home Alec had a secret book in which he kept the musical notes of their special language.
Oh, Alec. Remember my theory about how this whole series makes infinity more sense if you assume Alec is suffering from severe, diagnosed PTSD throughout? Yeah.
It takes three chapters for the plane to hit the ocean, which are mostly filled with Alec kind of panicking and the pilots pretending everything will be a-ok.
He kept his head down, the collar high. He would have liked to talk to Henry or the Black during the last few seconds.
Aw. That’s actually kind of sweet. As is Alec wondering if this will be just like the beginning again, if they’ll have to swim together again.
The plane crashes and sinks much more quickly than anyone anticipated. Alec gets the Black free but then someone knocks him out and drags him away because he’s spending too much time fussing over the horses. (There are a bunch more Arabian mares and yearlings, randomly.)
When he wakes up, Henry reassures him that all the horses made it out of the plane and were swimming away. Not so much the unfortunate groom. He couldn’t swim and did his life jacket wrong and went down with the plane. Shitty pilots, who didn’t double-check their passengers’ life vests.
We switch between Alec and the Black’s perspective for the rest of the book. First, the Black.
As the Black felt the pull of currents on his body, instinct told him not to fight them. He let them take him where they would.
Okay, this has been growing for the last couple of books, but: the whole question of “instincts.” It gets nutty in this book. Way out of control. The Black basically gets through this whole thing on “instinct.” He is from the DESERT. How doe he have instincts about the ocean??? How would any horse know how to read currents and swim to safety and oh yeah. Wait for it.
[The Black] watched the sea about him for strange shapes that could only be dangerous, fierce and horrible because he had little means of fighting back. Suddenly two monstrous eyes stared at him from a few feet away. He kicked out savagely, and the eyes and snout in the big forepart of the creature disappeared below, its tentacles clawing the air. The giant squid skidded away.
YOU READ THAT RIGHT.
A GIANT SQUID.
THE BLACK FOUGHT A GIANT SQUID.
Instinct told him to watch for predators from below, and it keeps guiding him.
He hated the sea and was tempted to swim faster, leaving it behind him forever. He wanted to feel again the earth beneath his hoofs. But he didn’t move his legs faster; instinct told him that the submerged coral lay all about.
Instinct also guides the Black – and his herd – to the secret sea entrance to Azul Island, and then through the
Fire Swamp weird swamp that blocks the side canyon from the main Blue Valley.
The Black Stallion came to a stop and screamed his high-pitched clarion call, claiming this new land for his very own. The air rang with his challenge, vibrating from wall to wall. And when his call finally died the morning stillness was broken once more. Drinking at the pool was a great herd of horses. From it a tall chestnut stallion stepped forth, his head held high, his eyes defiant as he turned downwind. Like the Black Stallion’s, his head was small with prominent, ever-watchful eyes. Great muscles bulged beneath his sleek, battle-scarred coat. He screamed his answer and it was as savage and wild a call as the Black’s! The valley was no longer peaceful. It had become a walled arena.
OH IT’S ON.
Unfortunately no, it’s not. We shift perspectives to Alec, who is on a boat.
Water was his most important need. With it alone he’d be able to live ten days, maybe longer, because his will to live was very strong.
Yeah no that’s not how that works.
The pilots, Alec, and Henry float around on the rescue boat for a while having various survival adventures. They eat raw fish a couple of times. There’s a shark incident.
They scarcely breathed. It was the biggest dorsal fin any of them had ever seen. The shark must have been thirty or forty feet long from dorsal fin to tail!
I did the research, because I’m always thinking of you, readers.
Jaws was supposed to be 25′ long. That would make him larger than the largest Great White Shark ever recorded. Hammerhead sharks can get up to 20′ pretty regularly. The only shark that would ever get 30 to 40 feet long is the whale shark. Which doesn’t eat people. Or have a dorsal fin. Oh, and the biggest one ever recorded was just over forty feet long. So yeah.
Anyway, they don’t have to rough it for too long, because after a few days, they land at Antago Island! Which is actually an amazing feat on the navigator’s part.
Back to Azul, though.
The Black and Flame are still standing off, waiting, when in comes an interloper.
He was milk-white in color and unlike the other young, ambitious stallions his body was unscathed: there were no cuts, bruises or tooth marks. And yet he was a veteran of more fights than any horse in the herd with the exception of the red stallion he expected one day to dethrone.
Blue Valley is not only big enough for Flame’s herd, it now has a bachelor herd? Seriously, how big is this place???
The cremello stallion and the Black face off and the Black kicks his ass, poor guy.
Having humbled his enemy, the Black Stallion did not intend to kill him. He had no impulse to fling himself upon the young stallion, who was no match for him. It was one thing to kill through necessity, another to kill a beaten foe.
Back on Antago, Alec is moping around because he is understandably worried about the black.
I’ve got to say he’s alive again over and over again and mean it every time. He’s out there somewhere…if not on this island, then on another. If he was dead, I’d know it. I’d feel it every time my heart beats.
Okay fine that one hit me right in the feels. ❤
Alec distracts himself from worrying about the Black by hanging out with an island veterinarian, who’s treating a number of cows with rabies. Henry tags along too and mostly leaps to grumpy conclusions and tries to tell the Antago islanders how to run things.
“No, not a dog. And I’m afraid this carrier is still very much alive and active – ”
“But he must be destroyed!” Henry interrupted urgently. “He’s capable of infecting human beings as well as animals!”
The police officer said gravely, “We’re well aware of that, sir.”
It’s not a dog that’s infecting the animals…it’s a vampire bat!
Alec and Henry LOSE THEIR SHIT.
“You’re quite an authority on [vampire bats],” Henry said disgustedly.
“Perhaps, for we have to accept such problems here in the tropics.”
Seriously, the police officer and the vet put up with an awful lot for the next two or three chapters, as Alec and Henry tag along to hunt down the vampire bat, because there’s a rumor that there’s a black horse running loose near the cave where he’s hanging out.
A chill swept over Alec. “But his food is blood,” he said in a horrified voice.
“As natural to him as milk or coffee is to us, so who are we to judge?” the veterinarian asked patiently.
I want a book about the Antago Public Health Service because these guys are just awesome.
They all venture into the cave and Alec and Henry screw up the capture of the bat by freaking out. They find the black horse dead – not THE Black – and flush the bat out of the cave, where it disappears. Everyone shrugs and Alec and Henry decide to hire a boat and start searching nearby islands, including Azul Island, which Alec has a strange feeling about.
Alec nodded assent, completely unaware that he had everything in the world to lose, including his very life. For in the cabin of the Night Owl slept the vampire, having chosen that vessel in which to spend the rest of the day.
dun dun DUUUUUUUUNNNNNN
Meanwhile on Azul Island:
This land was new to him and yet he knew the grass was rich in nourishment and that there was something in the very air on which a horse thrived. But true to his desert heritage he denied himself the luxurious, tempting grass for he did not want to become too content or lazy. He had many things to do and could do them best if he was a little hungry and thirsty.
I roll my eyes unto infinity. The Black is such a morally superior asshole sometimes.
Anyway, the Black and Flame circle each other warily and they are about to go at it when…
…Alec, Henry, and the boat owner who has agreed to take them to Azul Island get to the island and spook the vampire bat out of its hiding place! Cue freakouts galore, but the bat leaves the boat and heads toward the island…
…where it heads right for the Black and Flame!
Simultaneously they turned to the herd and the cliffs beyond. It was as if they had forgotten their fighting for the moment in the face of a still greater danger.
The two stallions reared skyward as if trying to reach the vampire bat that flew directly at them! Together they smelled sickness and death in its attack.
TIL that horses can smell rabies?
The vampire glided overhead and the stallions sought to grab it with their teeth and beat it with their forefeet. Missing, they made a lightning turn, streaking with the bat down the valley. Far beyond them raced the herd, the mares screaming as if they would never stop.
They chase the vampire bat up and down the valley for a while but don’t kill it; it zooms off somewhere into the darkness.
The two stallions stood alongside each other quietly, knowing that for a while danger to them and the herd was over. Together they would maintain a vigil throughout the night. They were terribly tired but their breathing was regular once more and came without effort. Soon the vampire would attack again and they must be rested and ready for him.
Sure enough, the vampire bat attacks again in the night and this time he gets Flame. He attaches himself to Flame’s back, and Flame goes down trying to get rid of him.
[The Black] grabbed the vampire by its outstretched wings, shaking it loose from the other stallion, and flung it to the ground. Then he struck hard, using both forefeet, until the enemy was dead.
At that precise moment, Alec and Henry and the poor long suffering boat owner are trawling off the coast of Azul Island and about to head away – when a stray gust of wind brings Alec’s scent to the island, and the Black can tell it’s him!
He cleared it with one magnificent leap, never breaking stride, never slowing in his mad rush to join the boy he loved. Only when he reached the outer wall of the island did he come to a stop, a look of indecision in his eyes.
The Black leaves the same way he came, through the hidden sea entrance, and swims out past the coral reef looking for Alec. He can’t find him, and so instead circles the island and comes ashore on the sand spit that’s the only visible part of the island. He’s hanging out there, thinking that he missed the boat (literally) when on their very last circle of the island, Alec spots him!
It’s actually kind of a great moment.
Alec suddenly let out a yell that carried sharp and clear across the water. It sent a chill over Henry or never before had he heard such a yell come from Alec. But then, never before had there been such a reunion as this!
The book pretty much ends there, as they leave Azul Island.
So, the Black is now up to two plane crashes and fights to the death against a bull moose, giant squid, and vampire bat.
Did you remember this book? Did the meeting between the Black and Flame live up to its billing? Are you with Alec in being irrationally terrified of vampire bats ore more like everyone’s favorite island vet who just sees them as part of life? Would you quit life and become a reclusive hermit after surviving your second plane crash, or is that just me?