The Horse And Mr Hyde: Matt Ferraz
Reviewed By Ben Walker
There are many odd combinations that somehow manage to work. Strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Katy Perry and Left Shark. Even William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part The Third.
The Horse and Mr Hyde by Matt Ferraz, on the other hand, is just plain odd. Intriguing, obviously, promising as it does a mash-up of Anna Sewell’s classic animal welfare story and Robert Louis Stevenson’s well-trodden tale of good versus evil.
Taking its cue from Sewell’s work, this short tale is written from the perspective of Black Beauty, here called Jack by his owner, who has him pulling cabs in London. This was actually part of the original novel’s plot, only instead of being concerned with the treatment of horses in Victorian times, this story involves a chance meeting with Dr Jekyll. Once Mister Hyde emerges, he threatens our horsey hero with a fate far worse than the glue factory.
If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to get past the idea that a horse is somehow writing its memoirs – you can only imagine the size of the typewriter it had to use – then you’ll find a well-written and respectful version of Sewell’s protagonist. Jekyll & Hyde’s characterisations are just as authentic, right down to their relationship with the local constabulary. This could almost be a forgotten chapter from Black Beauty, an excised idea which Sewell thought too fantastic to include in her work. Only that’s what drags it down – if it had gone full-on bizarre and embraced the idea of combining these two stories more closely, it would be a galloping glory. Instead, it’s more of a catatonic canter.
Despite its high concept, the story never comes across as silly or gimmicky, it’s just very slight. Beauty spends most of the book casually observing conversations between his current master and various passers-by before Jekyll enters the frame, after which Beauty occasionally stamps his hoof and stands around worrying. There’s just too much listening to what a horse thinks about things, which isn’t that interesting, and when his loyalty finally gets tested, he flip-flops more often than a politician on a working holiday at the seaside.
Stick with it through all these horsey ponderings and you get one brief glimpse of horror when Mister Hyde first encounters Beauty, after which it’s a steady trot to the final section, which has one glorious moment of promise but falls at the starting gates. When Beauty finally gets a chance to act, it’s essentially in a bumbling Benny Hill style, after which it’s back to listening to the human’s talk until an extremely anticlimactic ending.
In all, this is a curious novelty, but if you’re chomping at the bit, ready to pony up for a spur of the moment purchase, I’d suggest reining in your wallet. This isn’t the mane event, it just withers away. There are far more stable choices jockeying for position out there.
Now excuse me, after all those puns, I’m feeling a little hoarse.
The Horse And Mr Hyde
A horse pulling a cab in London takes on many strange passengers, but nothing could prepare Black Beauty for Mr Edward Hyde.
The evil face of Dr Jekyll steals the animal from his owner and rides him away into the night, leaving behind a trail of blood and despair.
This wild journey will change forever the way you look at these classic literary characters.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.