Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I don't like Westerns. At least, I haven't liked the idea of Westerns in the past. I also didn't quite love Bowman's debut trilogy - Taken, Frozen, Forged. However, given that I've read all of the author's published books to date, and I don't read enough Westerns, I thought I'd give this book a try. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was timing - The Quick and the Dead was on TV late one night, and I watched it because I couldn't sleep (I don't watch TV, very rarely). So perhaps I was coincidentally primed for this book - because I loved it!
Kate is bent on revenge after she comes home one day and finds her father murdered - hung from a noose - the house burning. Her father left a note to find a family friend who can help her should he ever die, and Kate will stop at nothing to find the Rose Riders that murdered her father. She strikes a deal with the family friend's sons - help her to Phoenix, and they can reap some serious rewards. But Kate must stop and think - is vengeance worth it?
This is easily my favorite YA Western. I've read another in "recent" times - Relic by Renee Collins - which was good. I really REALLY liked this one though. There are so many awesome elements of this book! This is (in my opinion) Bowman's best novel to date. I enjoyed it so much more than I enjoyed her Taken trilogy.
I feel like Bowman captured Kate really well. A huge difference from the Taken trilogy, because that series was written from Grey's POV (and he's a male). Kate is a likable gal! She is very tough, very independent, very ornery and prickly. Seriously, the girl wants to be left alone at all times. She doesn't like when Jesse and Will (the family friend's sons) tag along to help her find the men (and something else). Kate is prickly as thorns, and there is nothing wrong with that! I liked her so much, and I think Bowman did an amazing job of developing Kate's character.
The same goes for many of the secondary characters. Jesse is the male protagonist. He is the older son of Abe (the family friend), about twenty years old. He has a serious protective streak, as he has been the "man of the family" for years. He is smart and loyal and considerate, and he has a slow-burn temper that is kind of funny, especially clashing against Kate's prickly nature. I like Jesse a lot!
Will is a hilarious guy! He is the humor of the story, and I loved his interactions and role in this book. Liluye is another secondary character that we meet later in the book - she is very smart and has wonderful morals! And then of course, the villain, Waylan Rose. He is ruthless and mean, but not in a fake over-exaggerated Disney way. There is also another villain at work...
There are so many shootouts! In bars, outside of bars, in the trails while on horseback. Bowman definitely got that down. The *feel* of Western culture is alive in this book! There are so many little things, like the Stetsons, the rifles and guns, the dust storm. And then there are the obvious things, like the speech! Bowman has the historical Western accent written phonetically, so for me, it was easy to hear the Western accent! I loved that!
The story goes by so quickly, with nonstop action and plain-old fun. Kate is hellbent on vengeance, and Jesse and Will are determined to get something else out of this adventure (it's something super important, too!). There are scenes when Kate breaks down a little and shows some emotion under all of those thorns. I like that Bowman has written an action-packed, fun Western that also delivers on the feels and friendships.
There is a hint of romance! And no love triangle. Don't get mad (or excited?) if you read that "pair of brothers" phrase in the summary and immediately thought "love triangle". No love triangle. Jesse and Kate are the one pair of this book from the moment they meet each other - though there is no insta-love at all! In fact, Kate and Jesse barely have any physical romance, though you know emotionally that they care about each other. There are little things that Bowman does that shows us the development of the relationship. So wonderfully done - and so much more enjoyable than the romance in the Taken trilogy! Sorry, Taken trilogy.
This standalone novel won my heart! I am so glad I decide to give it a shot, despite two very large things standing in my way (my dislike of Westerns and my so-so feelings towards Bowman's first three published novels). I love that this is a standalone! It wraps up a well, though a touch bittersweet. Just a touch. Not too much though. Very HEA-esque ending. Yay!
What I Did Not Like:
I can't really think of much I didn't like! I wasn't even bored or tired of reading or hateful of any of the characters. This book was awesome!
Would I Recommend It:
I would totally recommend this novel! Says the non-Western-fan! I had a feeling this one would be Bowman's best novel yet, and it really is. Not that the Taken trilogy was horrible - but this book was much better. And it is only a standalone! No waiting and agonizing cliffhangers required. I hear talk of companion novels, so that might be a thing! Even if you're not a fan of Westerns (like me), give this book a chance!
4 stars. Very well done, Mrs. Bowman! I'm glad I took that leap of faith and read this book solely because it had your name on it (I like to read books by authors I've previously read, even if I disliked or felt meh towards the books I previously read). Go read this one, people!
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