Book Review: Vengeance Road

92e5d23e056a58c21dda9e70c5fdcd6bBook Review # 28: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Copy: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 336
Date Published: September 1, 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Rating: Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic

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.

Well, that was a good kind of different.

Year 1877:  Kate seeks to avenge her father’s death. In her quest for retribution, she tries to fulfill her father’s sole request – to visit his old friend, Abe, in Wickenburg. Only after meeting the Coltons, and reading a letter her old man left behind, did Kate discover that things are not what they seem, and the truth she seeks may be very far from her grasp.

Vengeance road is an adventure that spans the territory of Arizona, and wraps around everything Western. It’s easy to see the depth of research Bowman has gone through, because this book does not sound the least bit pretentious. It was notably consistent in terms of dialogue,

“Now you listen, and you listen good,” I says. “I’m going to Goldwaters, and I’m gonna get what you ain’t giving up. Then I’m gonna ride after yer friends and do to them exactly what’s in store for you – what’s in store for every yellow- bellied coward who goes round stringing up innocent men.”

“That sounds real nice, boy,” he says. “Now for the love of God, lower that damn pistol.”

and environmental and cultural references.

When I ride into town at noon, the sun is high and angry, and with luck no one’s followed me from Colton ranch. Here, the streets are so hard and bone-white parched, I bet rain would just pool and puddle if it feel. I loosen the kerchief at my neck and twist round in the saddle.

Jessie swipes a can of milk from my saddlebags and whips up some biscuits baking ’em over our fire. They come out tough and plain and half charred, but we shovel ’em down ‘longside some jerky and bacon while the horses graze nearby.

Vengeance Road makes the good old days sound interesting. Except the old days were not exactly good, but the storytelling can either captivate you or spook you, and that alone is likable.

This book made tracing destinations and routes enjoyable. I was compelled to look at the map whenever the characters relocate, and you have to know, I turn into an incapable creature when maps are concerned. Understanding directions frustrate me, so to make me look at a map repeatedly is a rare feat. Congratulations, Bowman. I can’t get your map out of my head. You did well.

Kate is a ball of fire. She’s a bad-ass woman with a goal set in stone, yet she is human beyond all her badassery, and her intermittent displays of weakness and hesitation are what makes her all the more appealing.

I love how Bowman alternated between fast-paced encounters and windless reflections. The romance is never the focal point, but it is all the while lovely and endearing.

Despite the chaotic atmosphere, this book delivers clear-cut messages about vengeance and greed. Greed changes character, and the thirst for blood and revenge almost always ends in despair. Revenge breeds hatred and sorrow, and greed leads to everyone’s demise.

Not all that tempts your wand’ring eyes

And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;

Nor all that glisters, gold.

On a personal note, this book heightened my hiking urges, though gunshots and ghost shooters, I could definitely do without. I would throw in some horseback riding while I’m at it. That would be a lively experience.

Likewise, it took a colossal amount of self-control to refrain from devouring bacon, or any of its meaty relatives. Curses.

Leftover thoughts

  • There’s blood involved, as well as mentions (well, more like descriptions) of injuries and death.
  • A decent mystery exists in those pages.
  • I was always wondering who’s going to shoot who next. It was very exciting.

The verdict: I liked this book. It has all the right elements for something fast-paced and gritty. It’s sharp and gripping, and is truly a must read for every western fan.

Favorite Quotes from Vengeance Road

When I were first learning to shoot a rifle, Pa told me that nearly every battle people face is in their heads.

“Life don’t care ’bout sorry’s,” Will says. “Bad things happen, and you can’t let ’em harden you. Whatever happened to yer pa, it ain’t yer fault, Nate, and you gotta let it go.”

Money’s supposed to fix problems, not give you more, but I guess life ain’t that straightforward.


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