The Race for Polldovia, by James Rochfort (Book Guild, 2014--published in the UK, but also available in Kindle form)
In our world, a little girl named Sophia daydreams about Polly, a sweet and brave princess of a lovely land called Polldovia. Polly, on the verge of being a grown-up, is just the sort of princess to daydream about--the sort who rescues wounded animals, can speak to horses, and who is beloved by everyone. For Sophia, the vivid stories of Polly she daydreams are almost as real as ordinary occurrences (going to school, going swimming) and her ordinary, loving parents.
But one day, Sophia's daydreams stop being harmless pastimes. Polly is in trouble--dangerous, dark trouble, and Sophia's finds herself drawn into Polly's world. There Sophia must be braver than she had ever imagined she could be, and help Polly save her kingdom from the evil forces that want to conquer it. With the help of a brave horse whose speed is unmatched, the two girls might be able to find the magical flower high in the hills that will save the kingdom....if they can win the race for Polldovia.
The Race for Polldovia is very much a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a young girl reader (especially one who loves horses!). The plot is a straightforward quest, with the evil and the good being clearly demarcated--a story line best appreciated by a reader who is new to fantasy. And I think that the beautiful goodness that is Polly, and the brave goodness that is Sophia, are likewise best appreciated by those who aren't yet cynically leaving behind the days when they too could dream of saving wounded forest creatures (goodness knows that's how I pictured myself back in the day.....). If you wince at the thought of a beautiful princess saving wounded forest animals, and tenderly kissing the younger child, this is probably not a book for you.
However, if you have a child who would find that thought enchanting, they might well enjoy it, especially if read aloud. It is the sort of story that is clearly being told--the authorial voice is right there, and I never forgot that I was reading a book. Reading aloud would also allow for breaking up some of the disconcertingly long paragraphs (I couldn't help but feel that a stronger editorial hand could have come into play).
In short, a nice story for younger readers that blends a fairy tale feel with a heroine firmly rooted in our world.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher