Wings of Olympus is a combination of classic horse story, mythic fantasy, and meditation on the power of love. And once Kallie George’s adventure story finds its focus, it twines together fate, kindness, and horses with wings.
After foundling Pippa chases Zeus’s flying steed through a storm-wracked night, she finds herself out of her job at ancient Athens’s South Wall Stables – and unexpectedly chosen as the goddess Aphrodite’s rider in the Winged Horse Race. In this once-in-a-century competition, each god and goddess puts forth a horse and a mortal child jockey. The god whose horse wins will rule Olympus for a day, the horse will replace Zeus’s retiring steed, and the child rider will be made a demigod.
With a month to train under Olympus’s harried stable master, Bellerophon, Pippa finds herself seemingly abandoned by her patron goddess. She also must fend off bullying from Khrys, Apollo’s chosen rider, who doesn’t think foundlings – or girls – should race. But all of this is outweighed by Zephyr, the dreamy, distractible little horse Pippa is assigned to ride. Pippa becomes determined to win, not just to stay on Mount Olympus but to remain with Zephyr forever.
But when a prophecy from the Fates lets slip that Pippa’s destiny lies off Olympus, she faces a stark choice: quit the race knowing she’ll lose, or keep training to spend more time with Zephyr. Finding reasons to race that aren’t about victory and its rewards changes the competition and Pippa’s friendships with the other riders.
Wings of Olympus tackles ambitious questions about bullying, misogyny, what winning means, what destiny is, and what love can do. But the sheer number of issues Pippa must confront has her hopping from conflict to conflict. Only one or two are handled with any depth. Several, like Khrys’s sexism, come up once and disappear, while more pervasive matters – a noticeable pattern of threatening, arbitrary male authority figures – are never addressed. All the half-finished problems can make Wings of Olympus feel more like a crisis tale than an adventure.
But once the story settles down to focus on Pippa’s love for Zephyr and the affection that relationship builds among her friends and allies, Wings of Olympus unfurls abruptly into a confident, wholehearted read, with a twist at the end that feels sincere, sweet, and satisfying.