I have kept putting off this review until I can read episode four, and the very newly released episode five Five Stride Line, but I am going to give that up. Not because I'm not enjoying the stories, because I am, very much, but time to sit and read and consider seems to be eluding me at the moment.
The Pony Jumpers is a series of novellas, each centring on a different character from Lattey's earlier Dream On. This very much plays to the author's strengths. There wasn't a character in Dream On that I didn't enjoy, or who I felt was poorly realised. Each of them read as if they were complete people, who could step out of the novel at any time and walk off into their own story. And Kate Lattey has picked up some of those characters, and allowed them to their own stories.
The series gives you thoroughly enjoyable, character-driven stories loaded with authentic content: just what we have come to expect from this author. She wrote them at great speed, which on occasion shows. The ending of the first book, First Fence, does feel a little rushed. The shortness of the format, and the focus on a single character, leads to plot strands in the previous episode not necessarily being developed in the next.
Those are minor quibbles though.
First up is First Fence. It's the story of AJ, Squib, Katy, Deb and a parade of ponies. AJ finally gets a pony of her own (the talented Squib) but life with ponies isn't quite the dream she thinks it will be. AJ makes friends with Katy, who seems to have everything made, with ponies and a knowledgeable mother on tap. First Fence looks at what happens when you have a major falling out between friends when even horses aren't enough to weld them together. It's the usual excellent read we’ve come to expect from Kate Lattey. Her skill with dialogue and the nuances of family life is really outstanding. I particularly loved the scene between AJ and her older brother Anders, in which they can only answer each other in one word. It’s so much the sort of thing that families do, but which lesser writers will miss out in the searing search for plot.
The book is followed by Double Clear. Double Clear switches focus to Katy. Katy looks to have everything set up for another successful season, but as is often the way with horses, it all goes wrong. Her family life is complicated, and made more so by the reappearance of the father she's learned to despise. There were a few loose ends in this book: I wondered why Katy didn't take up with her mother the discrepancies she found in her parents' account of why they split up. Nevertheless, Double Clear is a a really good read, and I did enjoy the way in which the author presents alternative views of the ways characters behave are presented.
Triple Bar features Susannah, a character I loved from her previous appearance in Dream On. She was such a fascinating character, who behaved so badly, but who still stuck to doing what she loved. Triple Bar takes a longer and thoroughly worthwhile look at Susannah, and what drives her. Susannah has been ostracised by the other riders. Whenever she appears, skirts are twitched, bosoms of disapproval hoiked, and no one speaks to her, unless it's passive aggressive whispers they hope she'll hear. I was intrigued by a character who's brave enough to keep up with what she loves despite all this. Triple Bar delves into what makes Susannah and her family tick.
The whole series is worth it for Triple Bar alone, but I recommend First Fence and Double Clear too.
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Kate Lattey, 2015. Kindle: £2.00
Kate Lattey, 2015. Kindle: £1.99
Kate Lattey, 2015. Kindle: £1.99
Age of main characters: teenage
Themes: family relationships, divorce, bullyingEquine themes: show jumping