From the moment he is born, Lubrin Dhu is different and his unusual talent for drawing places him even further apart. So when his tribe is conquered and Lubrin is appointed its mouthpiece, he is treated with the utmost suspicion. What is the bargain that Lubrin has struck with the enemy lord? And why does he make a horse - a huge horse, high up on the hillside, cut out of the chalk? How can this set his people free?
In an effort to imagine the origin of the ancient White Horse of Uffington, cut into a hillside with what she feels to be a magical power, Sutcliff invents Lubrin Dhu, a chief's third son, who is somehow possessed of the true artistic impulse, a need to get into his impermanent drawings the feel and the flight of the birds - or of the horses which are at the center of his people's economy. But invaders from the South, also horse people, conquer their hold, and for the sake of the few of his people who survive the siege, Lubrin makes a bargain with the new chief. He will create the horse on the hillside, and in return his people will be free to move on to other, dreamed-of horse runs further north. Sutcliff refers to Lubrin's work as picture-magic, and though she never suggests any particular beliefs associated with the activity, it is understood by all that Lubrin's own ritual death must be part of the contract. And so Lubrin creates a horse worth dying for, even though he knows that a lesser work would satisfy the one who ordered it. Though Sutcliff has given us more rounded recreations in the past, and here as elsewhere her plot sometimes seems too well made, her vision of an artist simultaneously - in fact, indissolubly - true to his art and to his people is impressively realized. (Kirkus Reviews)