Palaz’s debut is a Western/coming-of-age story about a young greenhorn who learns to love the Texas ranching life.
In the 1880s, Dave Smith runs from his tyrannical father and ends up in the foreign world of West Texas ranchers. After getting thrown from a train, Dave falls in with ranch hands from the Checker Board Ranch, but only after he gets into a fistfight with the dangerous Red Talbot. Dave gets to know the owner of the ranch, Pinto Larson, and teams up with Sam Eagle Feather, who teaches Dave about ranch life. While Dave learns about the trials of ranching—from burnt coffee to Comanches—he also learns that everyone has a story to tell or hide. What is there between Sam and Addie, the widow of Red’s brother? Is the Mexican barman really a bandito as his niece suspects? Palaz writes a traditional Western, with an observant new cowboy and with clear divisions between the good and bad guys. While we get some conflict, such as the knife fight between Sam and Red, the narrative is somewhat oddly structured. In the second half, Dave and his posse seem to skate to victory too easily. Perhaps the conflict will build throughout the series, but that still leaves this first volume without much at stake. In addition, the writing has some quirks that disrupt the flow of the story. For instance, the point of view sometimes toggles from first person to omniscient. And while Dave’s speech reflects his high level of education, his narration occasionally tilts toward the melodramatic: “ ‘No...NO...certainly not!’ was my vehement objection, my mind reeling at the mere thought this man suspected me of such dire deeds.”
An old-fashioned Western that doesn’t test its hero’s mettle.