Eleven-year-old Roy idolizes his half-brother, Joe, who rescued him from a foster home. And although Joe has a skilled trade under his belt like blacksmithing, he also has a temper as hot as a blacksmith's iron. When Joe's temper flares, the brothers have to pack up and go. On the very first page, Roy warns readers that he's "still pretty worried about the bad stuff catching up." So the boys keep moving. When Joe finds work at the Bar None Ranch, Roy is hopeful they'll stay awhile. Joe gets along well with the owner, who's given him a wild pony to train, and Joe displays a natural gift for handling horses, even nursing her successfully through a life-threatening fever and winning a big race at a rodeo. But despite his obvious gifts, Joe's hotheadedness has led to real fires: a barn burning, for one. And Roy is always on edge, constantly keeping tabs on Joe for the first sign that it's time to pack up and move on. The page-turning tension builds to a climax that is nearly and literally combustible. But Philbrick's characterizations are perhaps the strongest elements of this novel: Roy, scarred but ever hopeful, is near flawless; and the mostly loving and funny Joe is painted with just the right amount of unpredictability.