Wings of Olympus
Wings of Olympus
A soft nose brushed her cheek, followed by a whispering whinny. She blinked. Was there a horse standing over her? Yes, with eyes black as the space between the stars but just as full of dreams. Then a face, this time a woman’s, so kind and sweet she thought at first it might be her mother’s. But it glimmered with a golden light. A goddess! The goddess leaned towards the horse and murmured. “If you wish, little one.”
A sharp whistle, like a high-pitched whinny, split the air and the dream disappeared. Pippa jerked upright. But even though her eyes were open, she wasn’t sure whether she was truly awake.
Instead of her usual bed of hay, she was lying on smooth painted tiles. The scent of laurel filled the air. Had she stumbled here last night? She’d been so tired - but she’d remembered curling up under some bushes in the mud. Not on tiles. Especially not ones as finely painted as these. Slowly she rubbed her eyes and gazed around.
She was lying in the middle of the most extraordinary, most enormous courtyard she’d ever seen. The early-morning sun shone above, and the walls of the courtyard shone back. They weren’t made of sun-dried brick - but gold!
Pippa, or Hippolyta as she discovers her true name is, is a foundling, working for a mean-spirited groom. When Pippa abandons her work one night to chase after what she believes is Zeus’ horse, she is banished from the stables. First abandoned by her parents, Pippa is now on her own again, and on this first night away from the stables, she falls asleep under a bush. This happens to be the one day in the century when the Gods and Goddesses come down to Athens to select riders for their winged horses. Thinking she is dreaming, Pippa is chosen to come to Mount Olympus by Aphrodite’s horse, Zephyr.
On Mount Olympus, Pippa soon realizes that other children had also been chosen. Their purpose is to ride in The Winged Horse Race, the winner securing status for their god and the right for them to rule in Zeus’ stead for a day. The rider’s horse would become Zeus’ next steed, and the rider’s prize is to live for eternity in Mount Olympus as a demi-god and groom in the stables. Pippa couldn’t think of a better life than to belong and share her life with her beloved Zephyr. She is determined to win the race.
Soon the rivalries of both the riders and the gods come to light, and most will do anything, including cheating and trickery, to win. Pippa is teased and bullied by Khrys and Perikles but finds friendship with the talented Sophia and homesick Baz. During a meeting of the gods and goddesses and their riders, Baz tells Pippa he’s found out that Aphrodite isn’t coming to meet her. Upset, Pippa takes off on Zephyr, sad that she has yet again been abandoned but happy to be flying her horse. When Zeph is distracted by the sound of music, they land but are soon lost. Pippa is worried because Bellerophon, the immortal’s groom, made it very clear that the gods don’t care what happens to the children. They are expendable; it only matters whose horse wins.
Wandering in search of help, Pippa finds the home of the Fates, the three elderly sisters that weave and untangle the lives of mortals. The sisters let slip that Pippa is not going to win but give her a detailed map so she is able to find her way back to the training grounds. With this map, she finds a more difficult area to train and believes she can change her fate and win the race. That is, until she sees how sad Baz is. His horse, Kerauno, is the fastest and will surely win. Together, the two friends concoct a scheme to swap places with Pippa to stay and Baz to go back home.
The plan goes awry when Zephyr realizes Pippa is ahead on Kerauno, and so he races hard to catch them and, in fact, wins the race. When the children and Zephyr are banished from Mount Olympus for breaking the rules of the race, Pippa learns that sometimes people need to make a choice, to sacrifice something or someone special, because of love.
In Wings of Olympus, Kallie George has created an exciting story that combines the love of horses, adventure and the myths of Ancient Greece. The overarching theme, as argued by Aphrodite and Ares, is the question of whether love is stronger than might. As Pippa is pitted against all odds and is told by the Fates that she will lose, readers will rally with her as she fights to stay with her precious horse. They will also feel her anguish as she realizes the cost of her decision, not only to her but to Zeph.
Libby McKeever, a retired Youth Services Librarian, lives in Whistler, British Columbia.