The Devil’s Horse (Morland Dynasty #16)

Another month, another Morland Dynasty book. The series is an ambitious effort by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles to trace the history of England through the eyes of one fictional Yorkshire family. With The Devil’s Horse, I’m now halfway through the series as it stands now (although two more books are in the works).  Although I’ve enjoyed the whole series so far, the last two books were the strongest yet. This book doesn’t quite stand up to those two, but it’s still a good read.

The novel opens in 1820, and it focuses on the factory system and the dawning of the railroad era. Some of the Morlands get caught up in the efforts to reform the factories, but not everyone is equally enthusiastic. The reforming Morlands must choose between maintaining their high ideals for the workers and settling for what they can get. Is it better, for example, to have roomy houses or to build more of them? Another area of conflict that is just starting to raise its head is over the railroads. The older Morlands can’t see why anyone would choose to build a railroad when horses can do the job of hauling so well. But one of the younger Morlands is a railroad enthusiast. I wonder what will happen if the railroad ever wants to come through Morland land.

As always, the Morland family drama gets a lot of attention, and in The Devil’s Horse, most of that drama is only tangentially related to the history, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous two volumes. I think the books are at their best when the historical drama and the family drama are intertwined. That’s not to say, however, that the family’s story didn’t hold my interest here. It did! I mourned over Rosamund’s tragedy and winced in horror at  Nicholas’s actions. Nicholas, one of the youngest Morlands, has the potential to be one of the most interesting characters yet, and I really want to see what he does next. Harrod-Eagles does not insist on making all the Morlands heroic or even likable—some of them are downright villainous—and that, for me, is one of the joys of the series.

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5 Responses to The Devil’s Horse (Morland Dynasty #16)

  1. I love a good epic series and have always examined the Morland Dynasty books with interest in libraries, but it always seems to be #9 or #17 you see there, never #1. Then, I inevitably forget about the series until the next time I’m in the library, when I encounter the same problem. Time to figure out where to start and put that book on hold, I think.

    • Teresa says:

      Claire: If you like an epic series are aren’t intimidated by the fact that this one is over 30 books long, this is well worth it. The series starts with The Founding, and the first books are good, but it really picks up around book 8. Hope you’re able to get them all from your library. Mine had, I think, two of the later books, so I ended up getting them online.

  2. Danielle says:

    You are making such good progress with these books. I have too many other books on the go at the moment, so keep putting them off. I think once I get past the 1600s things will move more quickly as this isn’t really my favorite period.

    • Teresa says:

      Danielle: Given how obsessive I am with series fiction, if I didn’t limit myself to one a month, I’d read nothing but Morlands until I was done, so one a month is a nice compromise.

      I found the series picked up about book 8, which is also, oddly enough, when the pace slowed, which allowed for more character development.

  3. Marnie says:

    I have recently embarked on this but dived into the First World War books (Fallen Kings, Foreign Fields). Being an obsessive I read those in about 2 weeks so will also have to place limits on myself.

    I found Teresa’s comments about slowing pace and more character development interesting as the author (on her webpage How it All Began) said the series was planned as 12 book one. However, she slipped off schedule as the characters took over and because she wanted to include more than headline history. Perhaps why the series picks up

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