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Bosom Enemies 2: Bearing Our Losses. By Donna Barr. Bremerton, WA: A Fine Line Press, 2001. 64p. $6.00. ISBN 1-892253-10-0.

Fantasy, surrealism, funny animals (sort of)

Adults, teens; language, realistic violence, adult situations

In the first Bosom Enemies, Stewart (former American WWII soldier) and Stephan (former German soldier) were catapulted into a bizarre world where they were turned into half-human, half-horse "horses" ridden by Tudans, little two-legged horse-beings. This second book takes place after an unspecified amount of time has passed; the two have become cooperative (if not overjoyed) military horses and have been shipped out to the frontier with their riders. The main "threat" along the frontier is the Hapsooth, a native people equivalent in Stewart's mind to Indians.

The pair and their riders, along with a small company, encounter some "good" Hapsooth, who bear official papers and carry only lances instead of guns. Although the military Tudans are only helping these people get new papers, Stephan is upset; he doesn't fight women and children, and he gets fractious, to his rider's (the captain's) dismay. Stewart is more contemptuous of the "Injuns." Although most of the Hapsooth are cooperative, one, the son of the headman, doesn't hide his anger and skepticism. Then, one of the Hapsooth mares, carrying two children, bolts. Stephan runs after her, but she escapes. Returning to the group, they are ambushed in a defile by hostile Hapsooth; the captain is shot and killed, and Stephan is captured. They want him because he's gorgeous, but he doesn't speak their language, and he thinks they want to eat him.

The rest of the military Tudans find out quickly enough what happened to their captain. (Stewart wants to rescue Stephan, but his rider refuses.) They demand of the waiting Hapsooth that one of their number give up a horse to replace Stephan. Although the elders of the group force a reluctant young boy to give up his colt, the colt bolts and returns to camp, which is the same camp where Stephan has been taken. Frightened, Stephan tries to escape, but the Hapsooth hang on to him, and he is ultimately "broken" by a handful of children enchanted by his looks.

Meanwhile, as the military Tudans are escorting their band of Hapsooth away, they decide to shoot all the Tudans' horses, which sickens Stewart. And while the Hapsooth bear the loss of their beloved steeds stoically, the angry son of the headman ultimately ends up stabbing one of the military men--which, of course, results in a massacre, leaving only two children alive. Shocked to his core, Stewart collapses back at the fort.

Some time later, as Stewart and his rider are out riding casually, they come upon Stephan and his new rider. The two horses joyfully reunite (annoying their riders no end, especially after they buck them off), but Stewart is disgusted when he finds that Stephan likes his new Hapsooth life. They have a fight and split up. However, Stewart ends up as part of a raid on the Hapsooth when the tribe attempts to move up to their winter grounds. In the ensuing bloodbath, both Stewart and Stephan are left riderless. Stewart tries to convince Stephan to return to the military stable with him, but when Stephan discovers that one of the Hapsooth mares survived, he goes with her... and Stewart follows.

While book 1 contained a series of short stories, this book is a single full-length tale, and the concept is all the better for it, since the story is given time to explore a lot of hard questions and thorny issues with no easy (or even pleasant) answers. Stewart's World War II-era racism is handled very well, for example; he immediately dismisses the Hapsooth as "savages" and "Injuns" and is happy to harass them--a fine contrast to the German (but not Nazi) Stephan, who will not fight women and children of any type. Yet as Stewart watches his supposedly civilized Tudan military men massacre the Hapsooth, he is sickened and is forced to re-evaluate his values (though, of course, his prejudice doesn't vanish instantly). Issues of horse vs. human behavior and the unique relationship between the "horses" and "men" of this world are also explored in greater detail. For example, while the Hapsooth freely converse with their mounts, the Tudans generally prefer that their mounts act more "horsey" (that is, not ask the why of everything but just do what they're told). And one reason why Stephan prefers the Hapsooth camp to the Tudan military camp is that in his new home, there are mares--a great temptation to Stewart, who hasn't touched anything female since becoming a horse. (One of the funniest scenes in the book is when Stephan is ravished by a herd of horny mares.) Each of the former Earthmen is conflicted by what he was and what he has become; each is trying to reconcile himself with slavery, yet still holds out varying amounts of hope for returning to Earth.

I don't have too much to say about Barr's art that I haven't already said: I've always been impressed by it. Please check out her work at her website:

Bosom Enemies just keeps getting better and better. Highly recommended for adults and teens. It's too intense for kids, with its realistic and shocking massacre scenes and frank discussion of sexual matters.

Buy it directly from Donna Barr!

Copyright 2001, D. Aviva Rothschild


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