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Vengeance Road Paperback – March 7, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—After finding her father hanging dead from a tree and her home on fire, Kate sets out, disguised as a boy, to pursue the Rose Riders, the ruthless band of murderers and thieves who killed him. A nod to Charles Portis's True Grit (S. & S, 1968), this YA Western portrays the moral ambiguities that arise in the single-minded pursuit of revenge. Bowman's Gold Rush Arizona resembles nothing so much as a postapocalyptic Zombie-infested wasteland: Children are burned alive in coaches, whores and whisky abound, and Kate shoots good and bad men alike when necessity demands. The protagonist narrates her story in the same dialect as she speaks, a rough, pared-down chronicle of a world uncivilized. She distrusts even her few companions, Jesse and Will Colton, a pair of brothers in search of gold, and Liluye, an Apache girl who reluctantly agrees to guide them through the mountains. A series of tests along the way blur moral lines beyond recognition, especially as Kate begins to develop feelings for Jesse. Readers who won't flinch from a vivid portrait of a lawless world may appreciate her ruminations on the horrors she encounters and the choices she has made. By confronting such realities head-on, the book demands the same stoicism from its readers as the heroine herself possesses. VERDICT Teens sick of books that coddle them will enjoy sinking their teeth into Bowman's latest, a work for readers looking to graduate from L.A. Meyer's "Bloody Jack" series (HMH).—Anna Stover, Poughkeepsie Day School, NY --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
—School Library Journal
* "Kate's pursuit of the murderous Rose Riders, intertwined with gold-rush greed driving men to madness, makes for a thoroughly engrossing read."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[Kate] is a hard-riding, tough-talking young woman who can shoot to kill. The story is hers to tell."
"Readers will be entranced by Bowman's swiftly paced, romantic revenge drama, and historical fiction fans will relish the period clothing, western dialect, and details of everyday life. With plot twists galore and a nice surprise at the end, it's a page turner."
“A story of grit, love, and deadly revenge that climbs off the page and into your heart–saddle up for a thrilling, harrowing ride!”
—Alexandra Bracken, New York Times best-selling author of The Darkest Minds trilogy
“A take-no-prisoners heroine with a bloody debt to settle. I’m still breathing in the dust and hot Arizona sun.”
—Megan Shepherd, author of The Madman’s Daughter
“Gritty and honest, Vengeance Road captures the heart of the Wild West.”
—Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink
“Thrilling. . . . Kate is a heroine to be reckoned with.”
—Jessica Spotswood, author of The Cahill Witch Chronicles
“Relentlessly readable, Vengeance Road is a perfect Western. You won’t be able to turn in until you get to the very last page!”
—Saundra Mitchell, author of The Springsweet
“Flinty and fierce, Kate is a formidable addition to the pantheon of tough young adult heroines. Her story and voice crackles to life."
—A.C. Gaughen, author of the Scarlet Trilogy
“Gold madness, a good-for-nothing posse, and frontier justice: Vengeance Road is everything you could want in a Western.”
—Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate trilogy
“This is the kind of book I’ll re-read again and again.”
—Susan Dennard, author of the Something Strange and Deadly series
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Top Customer Reviews
My overall disappointment with the story aside, it wasn't bad just not quite as exciting and mysterious as I had anticipated. I love stories where a young woman disguises herself and has a great adventure and Kate was pretty awesome. The Colton brothers were an enjoyable contrast to one another and the way they interacted with Kate both before and after she gets revealed. Not everyone will love the way the writing is done but I love a first person novel that has an accent or dialect that gives it a voice. Additionally, there's an enjoyable set of author's notes about what inspired VR and how she researched the setting and era that I loved.
While I found VR wasn't what I thought it had the potential to be I'd still recommend it. As long as you don't go in expecting lots of horseback chases and shoot-outs, and a somewhat lighter western than the True Grit comparison implies I think you'll find it enjoyable. Especially if you like seeing a young woman on the path to revenge.
There are actually two storylines being told simultaneously in this Western tale that takes place in the Arizona Territory in 1877: 18 year-old Kate heads out to get vengeance against the Rose Riders - the gang that robbed and hung her father. AND there is the quest to find a lost gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. Because of these two storylines, I found myself thinking of two other similar stories all the way through the book: TRUE GRIT and THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.
I liked the tough, driven character of Kate. She is the narrator of the tale and she is who the reader gets to know the best. The author did a good job, too, describing the secondary characters in the story.
There was some repetition in the book when the quest for the gold mine was described. Probably about half the pages could have been taken out that described the search and the story would have read better and been more streamlined.
But that is a minor quibble - I liked the characters; I liked the story; I liked the major twist towards the end of the book.
There aren't many Westerns being written any more, especially for Young Adults, and this is a good, fun representation of the genre.
NOTE: I received this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers in exchange for my honest review.
Revenge story lines are always fascinating, but they also need to be executed well or else they come across as unbelievable. The plot in Vengeance Road, thankfully, was pulled off with perfection. From start to finish, this was a bloody and brutal book. Vengeance Road opened up with Kate finding her father's dead body hanging from a tree, murdered by the infamous Rose Riders gang. That event set the entire tone of the story; dark, rough and emotionally draining. With a Wild West setting, this sort of ruthlessness was expected, but that doesn't mean that I was completely prepared for the overwhelming feelings of fear I felt for the main characters. I was nervous about how Kate would go about fighting to gain revenge for her father's death and this fear made for an even more intense and engaging reading experience for me.
I was immersed in the story line, hook, line and sinker and that there in itself, is a sign of Erin Bowman's writing abilities and talent. Her mastery with the dialect, her ease of story telling and her vivid writing that made me feel like I was part of the book were further proof of that. Vengeance Road was also the kind of book that made me want to sing praises of the author, and simultaneously yell at her for torturing her readers. Being that engrossed in a book is one of my favorite feelings. Vengeance Road wouldn't be an epic Wild West adventure without the chase for gold and lots and lots of guns being fired. The entire story was based on this and watching as characters risked the lives of others, killed off obstacles in their pathway to find gold because of their greed was terrifying and fascinating. Also, kudos to Erin Bowman for making me gasp out loud multiple times during Vengeance Road with her twists.
This dangerous and adventurous book wouldn't have been a success without its protagonist, Kate, however. Kate was the best kind of heroine for this sort of story line. She was tough, badass and driven, with a touch of vulnerability that made her so much authentic. As a main character, it wasn't very difficult to admire and root for her and her prosperity. Throughout the book, she learned secrets about her family that leave her feeling betrayed, but she stomached it all and fought for what she believed was right. I loved watching Kate blossom into an even stronger character, not afraid of what life had in store for her.
On her journey for revenge, she met two brothers, Jesse and Will, who easily warmed their ways into my heart. Those two added a touch of humor into this otherwise dark book. It was entertaining watching them deal with Kate, believing that she was a boy and then afterwards hilariously dealing with the fact that she was a girl. One of the brother's and Kate develop feelings for each other and while the romance was slow, had an antagonistic feel to it and very much secondary to the plot, it still managed to capture an emotional intensity to it that had me sighing in happiness and shipping the couple like nobody's business. Both the characters went through hell and more in Vengeance Road so I was glad that they had each others support and love to hold on to. Besides great main characters, the villains were also interesting, particularly, Waylan Rose, who I loved to hate and who made a sadistic side of me come out because I wanted to see him die a slow and painful death by the end of the book because of all the pain and suffering he brought to the characters. All in all, these were all characters that spoke to me on so many levels.
Are you seeking a fresh and unique story in YA? Then look no further because Vengeance Road is that book. Erin Bowman's standalone was a thrilling book and when you pick it up, be prepared to lose sleep and brain space because you're going to think of nothing but this book for a long time.