To some, it might be disappointing that Thowra’s own son by Golden, Lightning, lacks the bush wisdom inherited by Bel Bel, Thowra’s mother, and passed on down to Kunama, his creamy daughter by Golden, by virtue of Boon Boon, Thowra’s second favourite and wisest mare.
But in reality it shows that Lightning was not going to be favourited by his own father, and when he is two years old and Baringa, Kunama’s son by Tambo, is a yearling, Thowra decides to kick them out of the Cascades and lead them south to Quambat Flat territory, further south than the Brolga lived. I thought Baringa much too young to lead on a far trek south and basically abandon into the care of an unknown yet benevolent new ally called Cloud. Cloud is light grey, so of course he can be trusted. Less trustworthy are the typical chestnut and iron grey villains that plague the Silver Herd, attempting to capture the females and kill the males.
To my surprise, Thowra simply abandons his son and grandson and expects them to be OK, so this book is mostly about Baringa and how he’s a year younger than Lightning but so much more like Thowra than his uncle will ever be. Lightning gains his first mare before Baringa, but he is jealous of the beautiful filly who Baringa befriends, called Dawn, and sneakily tries to make her part of his herd. He thinks because he is older and bigger and stronger than Baringa that he must be more handsome, but Baringa is faster- maybe even faster than Thowra himself – and from the age of two Baringa learns how to fight to keep himself and his tiny little herd safe. Then he goes searching for a mysterious filly who might or might not exist.
Lightning’s not exactly the villain in this, that’s reserved for basically every other stallion who’s not related to Storm or the new ally Cloud, but he does give Baringa some grief and then pretend like he never intended to steal Dawn. Baringa is smarter and more bush wise than his uncle, but then again, so far south from the men and their machines building roads into the Cascades, they’ve never faced man, nor harsh winters, nor bushfire, the latter two of which they have to overcome without Thowra’s guidance. Thowra comes and goes as he pleases, concerned with the welfare of his male offspring but probably more concerned with the mares he left in his secret valley.
This was a remarkably different book to The Silver Brumby’s Daughter. I think Mitchell went back to stallion protagonists because essentially their stories are more exciting than mares: finding their place in the world, fighting for a herd and for their own lives at every turn, falling in love with multiple beautiful fillies to fill their
harem herd. Kunama learned her lesson, chose her stallion early, and had a turn running from bushmen, but the lives of the stallions are far more in constant danger than hers. Also, she was allowed to stay in the Hidden Flat with Tambo and her chestnut foal, whereas Lightning and Baringa had to leave to find their own kingdoms because Thowra wouldn’t share, even though he kind of shares herd leader duties with Storm, even though Storm never beat The Brolga to become King of the Cascades… anyway good for Storm, he’s probably my favourite.