By: Erin Bowman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: YA Western
Buy it here!
When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate.
In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.
This full review will be spoiler-free!
I can’t think of a book that I’ve been more excited to read in recent years. Last year when I was in the middle of waiting for FORGED to come out, it was announced that Erin Bowman would be releasing another book in 2015; a Young Adult Western complete with outlaws, gangs, and quests through the gritty plains of 1877 Arizona. I was sold on it pretty much instantly. VENGEANCE ROAD is the kind of book that absorbs you from the first page and refuses to let go until the very last, and the gritty story of Kate’s quest for revenge will take you on your own journey through the very heart of the wild west. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book earlier this summer, and I’ll be forever grateful to Erin Bowman and @VRPosse on twitter for running the contest I found myself winning to receive that ARC! (It’s actually the first ARC I’ve ever had, and it’s signed, and it’s so cool, and I just can’t deal with how awesome the whole thing is!)
The novel opens with Kate Thompson discovering that her father has been murdered, after which she decides to disguise herself as a boy and hunt down the men who killed her pa and get vengeance on them one by one. Her quest for vengeance leads her through the heart of the wild west, where she meets and is joined by the Colton brothers, Jesse and Will. Together, the three teens happen upon all manner of trouble as they hunt down the Rose Riders and learn about the secrets of Kate’s family and what her father was killed for. From page one, I was completely on board with the storyline in VENGEANCE ROAD. It blends the real life legend of a lost mine in the supposedly haunted Superstition Mountains with a cast of fictional characters and events to craft a story which balances perfectly between fact and fiction. On top of the fantastic plot, Kate was such an interesting character to read, and the way she acts and grows throughout the book just made me love her more and more as it went on. She’s dangerous and cunning, but she’s also a human being and she has moments where she comes off as just a normal eighteen year old kid–albeit traipsing through the wild west to kill a bunch of notorious criminals. Her relationship with the Colton boys, and the number of other side-characters they run into along the way, flow so naturally, and it’s her intimate conversations in between action-packed scenes that really shine through and give me so much admiration for her as a character. In addition to Kate and the Colton’s, the outlaw gang known as the Rose Riders were some of my favourite villainous characters recently. It’s no secret that I love a good antagonist in a book, and Waylan Rose is a perfect one! He’s prominent enough in the book to give us a good idea of what he’s like, but he’s dangerous and it’s obvious that he’s got things hidden in his character that could prove a serious roadblock or two for Kate.
One of my absolute favourite aspects of this book, though, was the way it was written. As it’s a first-person narrative written in present tense from the perspective of a young character in 1877 Arizona, Erin Bowman has crafted the prose by using a distinct accent and dialect throughout. Kate’s accent makes for such a realistic narrative, as well as some funny moments where her situation, though serious and ultimately life-threatening, take a more light-hearted glow with Kate’s use of her unique way of speaking.
It weren’t no secret pa owned the best plot of land ‘long Granite Creek, and I reckon that’s why they killed him.
From beginning to end, this book completely took hold of me. It’s a perfect blend of fact and fiction, drawing upon the legend of the Lost Dutchman mine and even incorporating a real-life character or two from that very legend! The plot–as with all Erin Bowman’s novels–was so exciting, full of twists and turns and scenes which ended in such cliffhangers that I couldn’t help but keep reading, and the characters–again, as will all of Erin Bowman’s novels!–were so fully developed and interesting to read that I quite often found myself forgetting that they were fictional!
VENGEANCE ROAD is a book full of action-packed chapters mixed with heavily emotional motives, and just enough heartbreak and joy to keep you fully invested in the characters and the story the entire time. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy of this book when it comes out, I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.