Twelve year old Matt Del Toro is the greenest greenhorn in his family’s centuries-old business: riding down and destroying wolf-like monsters, known as skinners. Now, with those creatures multiplying, both in number and ferocity, Matt must saddle up and match his father’s skills at monster whacking. Odds of doing that? Yeah, about a trillion to one. Because Matt’s father is the legendary Javier Del Toro—hunter, scholar, and a true caballero: a gentleman of the horse. Luckily, Matt has twelve hundred pounds of backup in his best friend—El Cid, an Andalusian war stallion with the ability of human speech, more fighting savvy than a medieval knight, and a heart as big and steadfast as the Rocky Mountains. Serious horse power. Those skinners don’t stand a chance.
I often find it difficult to write reviews for books I have truly loved, those books which go a bit further, dig a bit deeper into my book-loving soul. I’m not ever certain I adequately convey to the review reader exactly how much I enjoyed the book, what about the book so greatly touched me, and why it will always hold a place in my heart. With that being said, know that Darby Karchut’s Del Toro Moon is one of those books I have well and truly loved.
Plot: One thing I have always loved about Darby Karchut’s books is her ability to find lesser known stories/myths/legends to write about. Just because these stories, myths, and legends are lesser known doesn’t make them any less interesting or exciting. Del Toro Moon takes the reader on a crazy adventure from Medieval Spain to the American South- and Northwest and features beasts from the beyond so horrible, so awful, one bite will kill. To keep these beasties in check, certain families, descended from the knight of old, have been charged through the generations to protect their lands, their people, and kill the evil that infects their area. To aid in their efforts, each hunter is granted a partner, a war horse gifted with strength, speed, and human language! TALKING! HORSES!
Characters: Karchut had me at TALKING HORSES!! I absolutely adore books with sentient animals, creatures who not only communicate with their humans, but exhibit unique personalities. Believe me when I say, every war horse in this book has his/her own distinct personality and isn’t afraid to show it. In truth, though I liked the humans, I found the war horses to be the strongest, most endearing characters in this book. From El Cid’s wizened ways, to Turk’s terrible attitude, to Izzie’s youthful exuberance, and Rigo’s wandering ways, I fell in love with every single one of them! I know there are humans in this book, but the war horses tended to have such strong, assertive personalities that they really took over the whole story for me and I found it absolutely delightful!
Pacing: Del Toro Moon is a wonderful blend of breakneck and down time. In the down time, the humans tend to take over the story with their own very human dramas unfolding and folding into the rest of the plot. Matt and his family have been hunters for many generations and that tends to limit their range and options in life. As you might expect, that sort of restraint tends to rub the young ones wrong which leads to drama within the family. Along with protecting their land from true evil, the family also must protect themselves from one another, and help one another adjust to a most unusual yet wholly satisfying life. The breakneck moments are exactly what they sound like, heart pounding scenes of violence, loyalty, determination, heart-wrenching drama in which you aren’t certain if everyone is going to come out alive. In these moments, the petty fights and problems that plague the down time are set aside while the humans and their war horses battle for their own lives and those of generations to come.
The Bottom Line: TALKING! HORSES! In truth, even without the TALKING HORSES, I would have enjoyed this book, but the TALKING HORSES really took this book to the next level! I was quite literally hooked on this story by the second sentence and I didn’t quit until I got to the very last page. I HAD to know what happened and that wasn’t going to happen if I quit reading, so I didn’t quit reading. This one has all the feels and I’m not going to lie, I ugly cried and then tried to shame Darby Karchut in an email for making me do so. She was not ashamed and quite proud of herself 😊 She should be! Del Toro Moon is an incredible book and really should not be overlooked by readers from any age level. This is contemporary fiction at its finest: a book crafted and not simply written, researched and not just imagined, a world with TALKING HORSES you don’t want to miss.