• Dark Horses

  • A Novel
  • By: Susan Mihalic
  • Narrated by: Alex Allwine
  • Length: 10 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (204 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A “sweeping and raw story of courage, resilience, and clear-eyed grace” (Sara Gruen, number one New York Times best-selling author) about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father in the vein of My Absolute Darling and Room.

Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan’s relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.

“[A] heart-pounding, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it debut novel” (O, The Oprah Magazine), Dark Horses explores the themes of abuse and resilience in a way that will leave you transfixed. This is “a provoking and needed book” (Booklist, starred review).

©2020 Susan Mihalic. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about Dark Horses

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible but Very Dark.

Major trigger warning for survivors of sexual trauma. But, this story, if you can stomach it, is an incredible journey of a young woman learning to take back her life and find healing in a much more elegant way than most people would have. The descriptions of the horse competition life are spot on and the characters are complex and compelling, but very real. This book will keep me up tonight.

5 people found this helpful

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Best Debut of 2021

Dark Horses is the incredibly dark story of fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery. She’s the daughter of an Olympian & a model, with a bright future ahead of her. Ever since she was four, her father has been sexually abusing her, and he controls every aspect of her life. Her mom is a drunk & aware of the abuse but never does anything to stop it. She’s able to endure it all until she meets Will Howard, a classmate from school, and falls in love for the first time. She soon finds herself at a crossroads...does she eliminate the distraction (Will) & follow the path that has been set for her? Or does she speak out and put an end to the abuse, even if it means losing everything she’s worked so hard for?

My heart broke into a million pieces reading this novel. There are many incredibly tough scenes of rape & emotional abuse, but I rooted for Roan & was extremely satisfied with how it all wraps up in the end. There are obviously quite a few trigger warnings that you may want to be aware of; the ones I can think of are incestuous rape, physical & emotional abuse, death of animals. If you can get past those, run out and grab yourself a copy because I guarantee this is going to nominated for awards this year, with Best Debut among them.

4 people found this helpful

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Story Stays with You

This is a dark story that sheds light on how American Women man as God their way through the Dust Bowl and the Depression. Still Relevant today with Climate Change and Immigration. Great Narration. Love the Characters and the Mother Daughter Connection.

3 people found this helpful

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Good but...

I gave this four stars yesterday, and something was nagging at me about this book. So I have a few things to say. First. this does not sound like it written in the voice of a. 15/16 year old. Her vocabulary was too mature and it wasn't that believable for me. Second, without giving anything away, there was justice but it left me annoyed and dissatisfied. The main character brushes off the possibility that her father had abused anyone else. Third, I found the main character a little too manipulative and strategic for a 16 year old. And Lastly, I wanted to see her get mental health help, and her lingering issues were just kind of brushed under the rug.

It was still well-written, and kept me listening. But those details bothered me a little too much to give It 5 stars.

2 people found this helpful

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Gripping and absolutely heartbreaking

This is one of those books that will stay with you. This book was really difficult to listen to at some points, the sheer amount of abuse and casual cruelty was almost too much for me. Were it not for the amazing preformance from the narrator I think I would not have been able to make it through the dark subject matter. If you can stomach it, I assure you that you won't be able to stop listening.

2 people found this helpful

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Dark, sad and inspiring

wonderful story, great narration, dark and haunting. one you won't ever forget. inspiring and moves quickly.

2 people found this helpful

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  • CJ
  • 11-22-21

Extremely dark,,,

It's hard to believe this is a debut novel… so dark and unsettling but beautifully written. The writing is raw and at times shocking. It‘s about a young girl who is trapped in an incestuous relationship with her abusive and controlling father and her mother is another kind of horror story. It‘s very intense!

On a side note, I was quite taken with the equestrian side of the story. It was very interesting.

1 person found this helpful

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As A Survivor:

This was a hard story to get through. It was painful because of how accurate it could be.

The reluctance and resistance of not allowing yourself to process what’s happening to you.

How you feel complicit and at fault even thought youre just a child trying to survive and make life a little bearable.

How isolated and undeserving of love you feel. And how you end up thinking you deserve the abuse you suffer.

The book’s pace might seem a bit lethargic if you’re not familiar with the experience and that’s okay.

My biggest critique would be the ending which is somewhat underwhelming and fails to address exactly what kind of help someone needs after going through all this. I’d like to see people be a little more deliberate in how they portray the aftermath, but it didn’t ruin the book for me in the end.

This also may not be the book for you (as a victim/survivor) if you do not have a support system to lean on at this time. It can be very triggering.

Also—I love the choice of narrator. Allwine has an effortless quality as she switches between characters and gives them not just a distinct sound but distinct cadences. Her male voices lack the strain and monotonous quality that many women narrators can struggle with.

1 person found this helpful

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Horses

I really like the book despite it not really be about horses...part of the message horses heal people and help theu the hard times

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very powerful

This is sometimes a hard book to listen to. The sexual abuse is ... insidious. But that's the point. Listening to the narration of scenes of sexual abuse is intentionally somewhat confusing, particularly in the beginning on purpose. Sexual abuse is always a violation, but frequently feels very confusing to the victim. This book does a wonderful, if some times difficult to hear, job of conveying that to the reader.
Additionally, the equine portion of the narrative is pretty accurate, so equestrians will enjoy it, too. (if you know you know how many books with horses in the plot are sooo off the mark)

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