Saturday, 2 February 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Star-Riders Of the Moor/Star Riders

Star-Riders of the Moor is this week's book. It is the start of Josephine's longest running series, which is most commonly referred to as the "Moors" series. This is due to the fact that all the books in the series (with the exception of one) have "Moors" in the title. It was first published in 1976.

It was republished in 1990 by J A Allen, who decided to rename it Star Riders. I have no idea why they chose to do that (they decided to do the same with Diana's Cassidy in Danger/This Pony Is Dangerous), perhaps it was due to the fact that they only decided to republish one out of the series.

The "Moors" series comprises of the following books: Star-Riders of the Moor, Fear Treks the Moor, Ride to the Rescue, Ghost Horse on the Moor, Treasure on the Moor, Mystery on the Moor and finally Suspicion Stalks the Moor.

I will be using the first edition, which is the one pictured above. The J A Allen edition of t
he book was revised a little; the differences are minor, so it doesnt matter so much which one you read. (There is also a paperback edition) The first edition is illustrated by Elisabeth Grant, these are missing from the re-named edition.

The blurb reads:

The Burnetts, the Mitchells and the Jacksons wanted to show the 'new' people all their favourite places for riding on the moor. They were annoyed to find strangers at Menacoell, an old shepherd's cottage, and full of plans for turning them out. The strangers turned out to be film-makers, however, who needed their help with pack ponies for a smuggling film. But was the film-making quite what it was made out to be?

Firstly, this is a complete departure from Josephine's usual style, as there is no instructional element to this story (or even this series). Her sister Christine was more famed for writing such books; nearly all her books follow the "adventure" element. I do like the "Moors" series the best though, with the exception of
Mystery on the Moor and Suspicion Stalks the Moor (reason why covered a couple of weeks later).

The series focuses on the Burnetts mainly. There isnt a location listed: although there are many place names mentioned, but they are entirely fictional. To me the locations sound Cornish, and therefore the book is set in Cornwall. Josephine herself based the location on the time she ran a pony club in Bodmin Moor, so it makes sense it is in Cornwall.

The book begins with the Burnetts talking about the new neighbours and meeting up with them. It also introduces the Jacksons; people who in the end turn out to be a central role: their dad runs a trekking centre (to me it always seems on a shoe string: the fact the ponies are frequently sent out with bath mats under the saddle and rusty bits is a good example) which provides interesting pony characters, both in this book and later on in the series. The Jacksons also sell the ponies, which proves useful for Jane, as initially she is mountless.

As per the blurb, the adventure begins when Jane, the Burnetts, the Hamiltons and the Jacksons begin riding together, and discover Menacoell is being used. As it says in the blurb, the excitement begins when they discover the "film makers". Intially, they think it is great, but at the end, they discover something sinister going on. I wont spoil it for anyone.

It's one of those books you either love or hate: if you are the kind who loves Christine's adventure type books and have been put off by Josephine's "instructive" side of things, then you will love this.

However, if you like Josephine's instructive style, then this may not be for you. Either way it is a well written book and an excellent start to the series: it is easy to see why this was Josephine's most long running series.

It is interesting to see that Josephine is not merely confined to a specific type of horse book: there are more to her then writing instructional stuff.


Jane said...

I've only ever read this series once, and it just didn't grab me. Your review has inspired me to have another go though so thanks!

haffyfan said...

I read this one initially as a child, didn't rate it at all and owned but never read the following 4 (yes including 'mystery' which I am now desperate to get my hands on after my mum recycled it). Re-reading last year I enjoyed them up to Ride To The Rescue but was very disappointed in 'Treasure' and especially 'Suspicion', like you I didn't think much of the new younger characters they introduced and it spoilt them somewhat. Also I felt the plots were beginning to get a little far fetched too! I prefer to be left wanting more (like with the Woodbury books) rather than this kind of 'overkill' which can spoil a whole series (like with DPT's Only A Pony - first 3 great but this one IMO was terrible, none of the vintage charm of it's predecessors).

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Haffyfan, I think what you said about the overkill has hit it spot on.

But at the end of the day, people were buying them and they were immensely popular, hence why Josephine wrote so many. Unlike the Noel and Henry series, she wasnt banned from writing the series, but she was banned from writing about the characters.

For me, you grew to love and knew the characters, including the Burnetts. When the last two changed dramatically, I bet that is why people didnt buy them, and consequently the last two are very hard to find.