Topanga Canyon: Fire Season by Barbara Bryan is a
wonderfully crafted novel with strong themes and a young protagonist that
instantly wins the sympathy of readers. Matt's alcoholic mother sends him away
to his grandfather's horse ranch in Topanga, California. ''Her goodbye hug
held only hot anger, which she wrapped around him until its searing heat
penetrated his bones.'' In the new world, the teenage boy must learn to
quickly adapt, facing new people and dealing with animals. As his love for horses
grows, he notices that his grandfather might lose the ranch because of huge
debts. Matt will do anything to help. But things get worse when his grandfather
leases one of the barns to Robert Sinclair, a merciless horse trainer. Matt is
not happy to see the way Robert Sinclair treats horses and is determined to
expose him. Can he save the ranch and the horses?
This novel is immersive and Barbara Bryan's evocative writing immediately seizes the reader's attention. Matt is a lovable character and the author develops this character with a lot of care. When readers meet him, he is a scared little boy who does not look like he can survive long enough away from his alcoholic mother. But through grit and courage, he transforms himself into a responsible boy, building healthy relationships with people and animals. Matt's friend, Ariel, is another compelling character and through him, the author develops the theme of friendship, teamwork, and creativity. The lyrical writing augments the entertainment and makes the narrative an enjoyable read. The vividly drawn setting brilliantly offers a portrait of life in a ranch. Topanga Canyon: Fire Season is an absorbing story with an appeal to a wider audience, thanks to the humanity and realism infused into the writing.