Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
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.
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Western
Published September 1st, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 336 pages
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Set among the Gold Rush area in Arizona Territory, Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman is edgy, action-packed, and brings the ruggedness of the Wild West to young adults featuring an unapologetic heroine bent on revenge. Ruthlessness is around every corner and dust, grit and bullets are all part of everyday life.
From the moment I saw Vengeance Road, I knew I wanted to meet the heroine, Kate Thompson! With its eye-catching cover of pistols, skulls and blooming cactus, I needed to know more about this tale of vengeance. I was craving a heroine who unflinchingly faces off against the enemy - the ones who have wronged her. Erin Bowman delivered that and more.
Kate brings to YA a protagonist that is not afraid to take matters in her own hands. Kate is hell-bent on revenge for her father’s death and she’s not one to let others do the dirty work for her. She makes no excuses. Imperfect, Kate is easy to relate to. Her desire to “do right” puts her in the path of an impossible scenario, making her all that more of a sympathetic character. You can’t have a “Wild West” theme without repercussions and through Kate’s eyes, Vengeance Road allows teens and adult readers to experience this “grey” area.
I loved the writing. It is so vivid, easily capturing the sense of the Old West. The descriptions make you taste the grit and feel the grime. All the while Kate’s first-person narrative makes it all feel immediate. One of my favorite features in this story is the strong use of language to give the sense of time and place. Kate uses a type of narrative that one would equate with someone of little formal education. The tone is rough, short, and to-the-point. It feels and sounds authentic. I found myself falling into the story.
Erin Bowman does not forget to give us some thrilling romantic moments. In the midst of revenge, some legends, and old-fashioned Western drama, we get some swoon. Disguised as a boy, Kate is in search of the infamous Rose Riders. Their leader Waylan Rose killed her father while stealing an important artifact from him. Along the way, Kate meets up with the Colton boys who agree to help her track down the villains. She soon strikes up a friendship with them and eventually a romance with one of the brothers. I always have fun with this trope, looking forward to the big reveal. There are no love triangles to worry about, just some sweet and heartfelt moments to thrill for. I also want to mention an unexpected friendship/ally that I enjoyed reading about between Kate and a young Apache woman named Liluye.
In the End
Erin Bowman creates a thrilling Western story with Vengeance Road. Perfect for readers looking for a young adult novel full of the grit and glory of the Old West. Vivid descriptions and narrative capture the essence of the setting and characters. A great coming-of-age story. The Old West has never been so fun! I want more!