You always get a bit nervous starting out on a trilogy, particularly if you cannot see the size of the other books and the commitment that you are about to make. But equally if it is a well-written novel then the idea of getting three doses can be very attractive. So it was with a light heart that the pages were turned on All The Pretty Horses, the first part of the Border trilogy. Having just put down No Country for Old Men this was an instant return to a Texan landscape McCarthy describes so well.
In the first 100 pages the landscape as much as the main character and his family situation is outlined. Just like Old Country it takes a while to get to grips with the characters and the story but it settles down quickly after John Grady Cole sets off riding for Mexico with his friend.
Cole leaves everything behind because his family life is disintegrating with his father and mother going their separate ways. There is also a problem with the ranch with his mother owning it outright from the father but refusing to let her son run it. As a result it goes down hill and the life he dreams of leading – Texas ranch owner – becomes something out of his reach.
As a result he gets on his horse and along with his friend Lacey Rawlins starts the trek to Mexico. The two friends play not just at being adults but also at being cowboys chewing tobacco and hunting down their meals. But things start to change near the border when they pick up a shadow in the form of a boy that is riding a horse that John and Lacey assume is stolen.
They try to get rid of the stranger and in scenes reminiscent of Sam, Frodo and Gollum it is John that becomes the arbitrator between the two boys that dislike each other from the start. Lacey resents the intrusion and his opinion of the stranger seems to be right when he manages to lose his horse and his clothes in a thunderstorm. They ride into a Mexican village and discover the horse in a coral and the stranger takes it starting off chaos that spreads through the village and almost results in John and Lacey being caught by local villagers but the stranger splits away from them leaving them to wander back as a duo for now at least.
Great descriptions of the people and the landscape and you sense that just as Lacey warns John the stranger spells trouble.