Monday, 2 March 2015

The Glory by Lauren St John

I may be well past the age for which horse stories are aimed, but that hasn’t stopped me from them loving them, and when it comes to contemporary horse stories, Lauren St John is the best. This was demonstrated in her wonderful One Dollar Horse trilogy and now cemented with her new book, The Glory.

‘The Glory’ is an invented race (unlike the Event trials our One Dollar Horse hero Casey Blue competes in) - a mammoth, long distance race across America, the like of which no longer exists today. The Glory is endurance riding taken to the edge, a ‘do or die’ experience not to be undertaken lightly, whatever temptation the $250,000 prize might ignite.

Will has to win – his father needs life-saving surgery and without the money there’s no way they’ll be able to pay for it. He’s spent the last of his savings to get here and told his father he’s gotten a job on a ranch. Alex has been sent to the states by her mother and step-father to a boarding school/prison camp for troubled teens, 'Camp Renew', following a series of mistakes and her parents' blinkered inability to try and understand their daughter properly. The school is just a few miles from the The Glory's start point, and after running away at the earliest possible chance, stealing/rescuing a horse in the process, Alex, moneyless and otherwise directionless, talks the organizers into giving her a wild card entrance.

Can these two teenagers beat the odds, survive everything the wilderness has to throw at them, and achieve their dreams? Several dastardly villains are on their tail – cheating competitors, horse thieves, and Camp Renew’s warden/headmaster Strike Cartwright among them. I hope it’s not giving too much away to tell you that they each get their comeuppance in the end – some in quite the comedy of errors – but the real worry is, how much damage will they cause along the way?

Alternating between the two protagonists, The Glory comes together with Lauren St John’s usual wit, panache and clever storytelling. The quiet relationship that gradually develops between the two characters has just a touch of engineering – as does the fairytale ending of the story – yet also feels entirely right and true and exactly the way the world should be. There is danger a-plenty, but a good number of laughs too, and St John deftly interweaves little snippets of American history into the narrative that give the story a lovely extra little touch.

The Glory is pure escapism, but its escapism at it's absolute best. I loved it.

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