Spring Reads: Book Six {Kings of Colorado}

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A while ago I filled out an End of 2012 Book Survey. It was a great way to revisit books that I hadn't thought much about since turning the final page. It made me think back on books that had forced me to think in a new way or to understand the world in a new light.  This book? Kings of Colorado by David E. Hilton? One of those books.

I had forgotten just how much this book affected me when I was tucked into its' pages. I had forgotten just how invested I became in the characters and the story. I had forgotten how much the pain of the main character became my own pain,  how much of his loss became my loss, how much his world became my world.

To say I loved this book is misleading. Because I did love it. But it was so much more than that. I swear, if you pick it up you will understand. 


Swope Ranch Boys' Reformatory is buried deep within the Colorado mountains and is shrouded with mystery and legend: boys who go to Swope never leave the same way they went in. There are no fences or gates. There are no locks or other means to contain the boys.

There is only fear.

Anyone attempting to escape from the property will be shot without hesitation by any of the guards.

Not that there is much to escape to.

William Sheppard, thirteen, had never once left his hometown of Chicago until the day he boarded a bus headed to Swope. Hundreds of miles away from home and in the middle of the Colorado wilderness, Will was being sent away for stabbing his abusive father in the chest with a pocketknife. He's terrified and confused. And he's in for the hardest twenty-four months of his life so far.

The ranch is responsible for breaking herds of mustangs that are brought to the property. Each of the boys has a specific role from mucking the stalls to breaking the horses of their wild nature. Once broken the horses are sold off to ranchers and landowners across the Southwest United States and the guards pocket the money. Will wants to work with the horses, but moving his way up from a stable boy is a difficult and dangerous process.

Upon his arrival Will learns that knowing your enemies is almost more important than knowing your friends. The boys at Swope are, perhaps, more brutal and demeaning to each other than the guards. Will does his best to keep his enemies at bay and his three best friends close, but life at Swope makes that hard. Life on the ranch is littered with tragedy, deception, death, violence, and corruption.

The boys break the horses, the ranch breaks the boys.


I really don't even know where to begin with this book.

Let's start with the first line, because that's where all good stories start:

In the summer of 1963, when I was thirteen, I stabbed my father in the chest with Davy Crockett Explorers pocket knife. 

Now, I've read a lot of books. But this? This has to be one of the best opening lines of any book I have ever read. This first line sold the whole book for me: I couldn't put it down once I started it.

And once I finished it? I didn't pick up another book for over two months. 

It was that powerful.

Just writing about it now, almost a year after I read it, brings up a flood of emotions and memories.

This book is filled with raw and gritty expressions of life in the most atrocious conditions. It makes you both question and have faith in human nature. It shows you the power of the heart of an animal. It shows you the power and extent of the bond of friendship. It makes you question and reevaluate so many things in your life. 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg of things this book makes you think or feel.

Will is so honest and real that he is one of the most believable characters I have read in a long time. He has his flaws, he has done bad things for good reasons, and he is forced to live in a place that is riddled with gross injustices. He watches bad things happen to his friends. His world breaks down piece by heartbreaking piece. And yet? Even when he's surrounded by all that evil? He still finds pieces of the world to hold his broken life together. He does not give into the evil. 

Parts of this book are absolutly gruesome and heartbreaking. Your stomach will be twisted in knots at the face of an unexplained and unthinkable evil. Parts of it will have you in tears.

But parts of it will give you hope.

And parts of it will never, ever leave you.

And David Hilton's prose is so powerful. So succinct and meaningful. He tells you what you need to know when you need to know it and makes you feel what you need to feel when he wants you to. 

This is a beautifully and carefully crafted book from the first page to the last and I would (and have!) recommend it to anyone looking for something to read. 


Title: Kings of Colorado
Author: David E. Hilton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 3 January 2012
Medium: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary; 
Recommended For: Anyone and everyone; High School +
Date Read: 28 April 2012
Source: Purchased @ B&N

First Line: In the summer of 1963, when I was thirteen, I stabbed my father in the chest with Davy Crockett Explorers pocket knife. 
Favorite Line: Some stories are rooted in adventure, some in strife. Others are born of the heart and the horrors and the joys locked therein are often immeasurable, and make us truly wonder what became of those children we once were. 

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