“In Painted Horses, his vivid—and often romantic—debut novel, Malcolm Brooks describes a modern American West where ownership of everything, including the past, is in dispute.”

“…breathtaking prose that expertly captures the raw essence of an American West known for its wide-open spaces and unbridled spirit…By the end of Painted Horses, it’s hard not to feel as though you’ve traveled to the end of the Earth (or beginning of time) and back in a whirlwind of dust and words.”

“There is a touch of heroism about the protagonists, but they’re not superheroes endowed with powers that will save the last vestiges of the wild and natural West.”

“When writing about landscape (‘The tilt of the planet had outrun the legs of winter and dawn climbed early now over the wide lip of the world.’), Brooks, a carpenter by trade, is a rigorous, top-notch craftsman of prose, abiding by the old adage, measure twice, cut once. And when he’s writing about horses (‘The mare picked her way up through a boulder field, her own hooves dainty and hard as gunflints in the granular soil.’) he exceeds even his own high standards.”

“Brooks takes what could be a simple story and brings in a little romance and reveals the deep contradictions that are at the heart of Americans’ reverence for the West, until that reverence comes into conflict with progress. This is an important book but also an entertaining one, a book that is destined to form part of the canon of Montana literature as it preserves a piece of the past by exposing not just myth but deeper truth.”

“Brooks accomplishes no small feat in this remarkable debut: a tale of literary ambition that lives comfortably inside its genre roots, but not by its conventions.”

“A hefty, sprawling book that straddles World War II and postwar England but spends most of its time in a Montana canyon, Painted Horses reads like a cross between Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, with a pinch of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient for good measure.”

“Brooks’s debut captures the grandeur of the American West.”

“Painted Horses is a wonderfully told story, and each rich detail shows a fascinating piece of the American West.”

“Painted Horses vividly evokes an earlier time, a place and a way of being that is at the cusp of great change.”


The Washington Post

“Brooks’ prose rings true and borders on poetic when he tackles the biggest things in his novel: themes of love, what one is willing to fight for, what to give up for something held more dear and, in the end, what it takes to recover from what has been lost.”

“Painted Horses creates several worlds in a seamless and ambitious blend of history, romance, archaeology and nature.”

“Malcolm Brooks is a first-time author, but his bona fides as a product of the American West are secure.”

“It’s hard to imagine that there are still Westerns to be written, but Malcolm Brooks proves with his haunting and lyrical debut that there’s room for at least one more.”

“A love song to the Western frontier, Painted Horses is a new, truly American, work of art.” 


“Brooks writes with a literary style well-suited to the big Montana skies. His descriptions are spot-on and at times poetic, transporting the reader back in time and into the wild lands of the unsettled west.” 

“Blurbs are too easy to come by, therefore suspect at best. Worthwhile reading, on the other hand, is harder to find.When I received Malcolm Brooks’ Painted Horses, I was naturally suspicious, its cover thick with comments from Rick Bass, Carolyn Chute and even Jim Harrison. Brooks’ wide-ranging, nearly untamed story, allayed my fears, however.”

“Stories that romanticize the harshness of living in the West have always sold well among people who don’t live here.  In his debut novel, Painted Horses, Malcolm Brooks borrows the rutted stereotypes of the West and then refashions them into a defiant and beautiful work of art.” 

“Brooks describes the natural beauty permeating PAINTED HORSES in rapturous, languid prose the reader follows across the page like an eye across a vista. He effortlessly evokes wonder for this soon-vanishing terrain, which in lesser hands might have devolved into simple nostalgic sentimentality. It’s a thin line, but Brooks navigates it with aplomb, exhibiting a level of skill that belies his status as a debut novelist”

“I loved Painted Horses, the marvelous debut historical novel by Malcolm Brooks. He’s a hell of a story teller, and offers readers an elegant love story, a haunting memoir of war, and an epic battle between preservation and development.”

“Malcolm Brooks’s debut novel, Painted Horses*, is a Western that’s not limited to the West. It’s ambitious, engaging, and sure to be the start of a long literary career.”


“It’s a sweeping tale that spans from the Great Depression to the early 1960s, with cowboys and Indians and lawmen and outlaws, as well as a strong and inquisitive female protagonist (with a strong, stubborn teenage female sidekick), a herd of mustangs, and some heavy conflict between progress and tradition. Much of the action is set against the backdrop of the stunning Montana landscape. Yet Brooks’s book is neither traditional nor subversive. Take a cue from the title; Painted Horses is not alt-Western, but art-Western.”

“Painted Horses is a combination of polished writing, interesting questions, fully fleshed characters, and a compelling series of interconnected story lines. I rarely, if ever, have felt the need to slow down the speed with which I read, but I forced myself to do so with this book because I simply did not want it to end.” 

“You don’t have to love and know horses or appreciate their role in the history of America’s West to love this historical fiction debut. But I bet Malcolm Brooks does. For I don’t think it’s possible to craft prose so authentic otherwise.”

“…the author recreates his Montana of the 1950s with subtle strokes and warm reverence. This is a love letter to an American West that has all but disappeared.”