Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (2015)
YA/NA Fiction | Historical | Western
“Revenge is worth its weight in gold.
When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.”
pooled ink Review:
This, besides the Little House on the Prairie series, is the first book I think I’ve ever read that falls into the Western genre. I don’t know how that is possible but it’s true. So to be honest I wasn’t sure I’d like this book. Whenever people mention Westerns I’m like mehh, and yet when I actually think on it I grew up on books and TV shows that fall within that genre. I think I really love Westerns and just somehow forgot. Well after reading this book I say there should be more YA Westerns!
So yes, I wasn’t convinced by the genre even though the story sounded interesting. But I LOVED the cover. So I decided what the heck and bought it. Well I’m telling you now that I’d barely started reading before I was whisked away by gunfire and fury and the more I read the more I realized I wanted more.
In short, this book was so good! So so good! Unless you hate Westerns, in which case I guess you’d better back away slowly.
This book wasted no time getting to the action. Smoke is everywhere, blood is tainting the air, and there’s a girl sighting down her Pa’s murderers who’ve got hell to pay. There was loads of shootouts, saloons, gold mines, sweating in the desert, Apache, folklore, and thirsting for revenge in every page. It held true to all the best parts of a classic American Western.
Kate is a character full of fire, she’s made of blood and steel and an aching heart deep beneath. And despite her prickly attitude or her one-track mind set on vengeance, I really liked her. She quickly teams up with the Colton brothers and they make quite the interesting trio. Jesse with his squinty-eyed smiles and Will with his sharp tongue add a bit of seasoning to Kate’s story. Together they stir up quite the dust all across Arizona.
I also liked the character Liluye, an Apache girl. I think she added a bit of a perspective that gave this story interest especially considering the time it’s set in. She didn’t feel stereotyped and she didn’t feel forcibly written to avoid stereotypes either. She was a good character, no matter how brief, and I think she definitely added something to the story and world-building.
Overall it’s a quick novel. It doesn’t spend pages and pages giving you pounds of paper to bond with the characters or get to know all their deepest secrets and psychologies. Some people interpret this as shallow but I was really okay with it. Honestly it felt more realistic, especially for this specific story.
Also the book felt more focused on the very specific plan for vengeance Kate had as opposed to orienting around the character relationships like many books do. Kate’s vengeance drove the story, the action drove the story. Even so I think I did get to know the characters well enough. I could feel the blazing sun on my back, the anger in Kate’s veins, the tension between brothers, and I smiled like a fool at that final sunset scene. Just because it didn’t send us down a mineshaft of details and insight doesn’t mean you miss out on getting to know the characters or the world they live in.
This story is filled with the culture and history of 1800s American West and I loved it. A tale of vengeance from start to finish. And best of all it had a classic ending for a perfect Western, sunset and all.
Oh so there’s this one part where they’re facing down their enemies – “I crank my lever action and keep shooting at the fleeing Riders” – and when I read that I totally thought of Rifleman!! It made me smile like a nerd.
Really, reading this made me nostalgic for some of my favorite shows as a kid: The Cows of Moo Mesa, Little House on the Prairie, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. I was always playing the Oregon Trail computer game whenever I could and loved going to Tweetsie Railroad (a Western-themed park in NC). I also really love the movie Rango but that’s slightly irrelevant haha (:
Look, there’s something about Westerns that is admittedly not for everyone, but I really thought this book was fun to read. It’s an adventure story filled with excitement, revenge, loss, grief, love, enemies, betrayals, and unlikely allies. I dunno, but like I said, I had fun reading it. And it’s a standalone novel! PRAISE! And I hear there’s a companion novel, Retribution Rails, that is coming out soon. YAY!
So it’s not a particularly long book, and it’s different from most of what I see on the bookstore shelves these days, but it’s a great Western story. It would make an awesome movie for sure (and because I’m have a theatre major and I’m a nerd and half-Mexican, of course I couldn’t help but picture myself as fire-spitting Kate lol).
I liked how it was simply a Western. It didn’t need any gimmicks to spice it up or keep it interesting. No paranormal monsters, no distracting entanglements, no idiosyncratic flurries dropped in as a needy attempt to connect with modern readers. It was classic and I think that’s why it worked. Thank you, Bowman, for contributing this book to the Young Adult shelves.
Gritty, blood-thirsty, and exhilarating, Vengeance Road spins a tale of a girl hell-bent on revenge, a lost gold mine, and the devils that stand in her way. A classic Western for contemporary readers that sweeps its audience into an age long lost but still remembered.
Purchase here: Vengeance Road
Meet Erin Bowman!
Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her family and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter.