Set in Arthurian times, Black Horses for the King tells the story of a young boy who helps bring back a troop of black Libyan stallions to England to drive out the invading Saxon armies.
McCaffrey turns away from the distant planet Pern to the world of King Arthur in her first enchanting historical novel for YAs. Galwyn Varianus is a quick-witted lad who is forced, after his father's death, to work as a page on his mean-spirited uncle's boat. Fortunately Galwyn meets the young Lord Artos (later, King Arthur), who has set out to breed Libyan horses for his army to ride against the invading Saxons. This larger conflict forms the background for Galwyn's simple, engrossing tale. After spending a few days in the future king's company, Galwyn is swayed by his noble leadership and mercy, so runs away to join Artos's forces. Here, Galwyn learns all about raising horses and grows into a fine citizen of Camelot. The author deftly recreates the tools and culture of the Arthurian era, but readers may find the prolonged development of the prototypical horseshoe plodding. McCaffrey's fans will no doubt enjoy the camaraderie of Artos's merry band, and her trademark good guy/bad guy characterizations flatten but slightly this enjoyable adventure. (Kirkus Reviews)