The Horse by Willy Vlautin

I have long been a fan of Willy Vlautin, and will read anything and everything he writes. His latest novel, The Horse, is his most personal yet and another stunning example of why he is one of America’s finest storytellers.

Al Ward is 65 years old, living isolated on old mining land in Nevada, as he battles alcoholism and anxiety. It is here, outside his house, that he finds an old blind horse, unable to feed itself, or fend off the howling coyotes. Al becomes desperate to help the horse survive. As he traipses 30 miles on foot to the nearest neighbour, we get a glimpse into Al’s past; the years spent as a touring musician drifting from one band to another, writing hundreds of songs, playing in casinos, living in motels, and drinking far too much booze. 

The Horse is an ode to uncelebrated musicians, those with more passion than money, who spend their lives dedicated to doing the thing they love most because it’s who they are. It’s also a surprisingly hopeful novel about the importance of love, compassion and friendship, even if it’s with an old blind horse. There is always something to live for. – Emma

The Home Child by Liz Berry

In 1908, twelve year old Eliza Showell was separated from her brother and packed onto a ferry from Birmingham to Nova Scotia, never to return. Such was the fate of Britain’s ‘home children,’ orphans sent from emigration homes to work as indentured servants and labourers in the colonies.

In this tender and sweeping novel-in-verse, Liz Berry reconstructs the life of her great-aunt Eliza and gives voice to the victims of this little-known injustice, many of whom worked only for board until their deaths. Despite everything, love and beauty can still be found in this stark Canadian landscape. – Rohan

The Burial Plot by Elizabeth Macneal

In Victorian England there are two universal truths. One is that men dictate a woman’s life, and Bonnie is no different. She may have run away from the arranged marriage to the elderly village vicar and struck up a relationship with a handsome and volatile trickster, but she still can’t control her own fate. When a money-grabbing exercise goes horribly wrong, Bonnie is forced to flee London and assume a new identity as a maid at a country house in Twickenham. 

The second truth is this: whether you’re rich or poor, high-or low-born, death comes to us all. And in London, that means one thing. Bodies. Her new home stirs great ideas in Bonnie’s sharp mind, and she can see the potential for a gleaming, beautiful new cemetery begin to form. 

 But Bonnie’s past is full of lies and trickery, and who says this gleaming future could be any different? This sticky, atmospheric, and twisting historical thriller will keep you guessing until its final pages. – Lottie

Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

When Ronny’s friend is killed in a vicious attack, his mother resolves to move them out of London for good. They land in Norwich, a place alien to everything Ronny has ever known. It’s small, it’s quiet, and he feels constantly like an outsider as one of the only Black people in his new school.

When a local poet starts teaching a writing class at school, Ronny is sceptical – but he soon learns there’s not a huge difference between poetry and the rap he holds so dear.

This is a meticulously crafted YA verse novel that tackles huge political issues behind the intimate story of one young man negotiating friendship, love, hip-hop and trying to find his place in the world. Hickson-Lovence, whose previous work was the superb adult novel Your Show, is a uniquely talented writer who has expanded his range once again with this novel perfect for fans of Angie Thomas and Jason Reynolds. – Tom M