Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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.
A girl with a colt in one hand and a rifle in the other, you say? And more balls than half the men in town? And a thirst for revenge? Yes, please!
I can fire a rifle as good as any man. ‘Parently I can kill another just as dead too. I don’t see why I should act like I can’t just ‘cus it ruffles everyone else’s feathers.
When a feared gang called The Rose Riders murders Kate Thompson’s father for a valuable possession, there is one thing they didn’t reckon with: Kate’s pid-headed thirst for revenge. Following the Rose Riders’ trail into the heart of 1877 Arizona, she embarks on a quest to bring down every last gang member, finding unforeseen allies in two brothers and an Apache girl, and discovering secrets that may have better stayed hidden.
18-yr old Kate is a fierce human being to behold. She’s half Mexican and is described as having long black hair down to her waist (which, of course, she has to get rid of for her disguise lateron), and I pi
ctured her with a slightly darker skin tone. She’s wild, impulsive, and forceful. She doesn’t take shit from no one, and she sure as hell doesn’t let herself get distracted by pretty boys or the promise of filthy gold – she reminded me a lot of Saba from Blood Red Road. And on top of all: She reads!
On her quest for avenging her father, she’s accompanied by two brothers. The two men are sons of her Pa’s deceased friend, with whom she was supposed to stay if anything happened to her father. Of course, Kate didn’t for a second consider settling in a secure home and let the past be the past (honestly, I probably wouldn’t either). As Kate is disguised as a boy, the brothers have no clue she’s a girl, instead assuming she’s a late-bloomer. Will is about as witty and foul-mouthed as Kate which is why they get along better than her and Jesse, the more reasonable and protective brother (well, mooost of the time). Jesse has a calm way of challenging people, which often clashes with Kate’s flare. I can guess what thought crossed your mind upon seeing “two brothers” in the premise, but no, there is no love triangle. The second female member of the group joins them a bit later in Phoenix, an Apache girl who owes Kate. Liluye is sneaky, smart and sticks to her principles, even if they may seem merciless.
There’s a lot of riding and travelling but there are also stops where shit gets real between Kate and the Rose Riders. Although I usually shy away from these sort of “quest plots”, I enjoy them very much if they’re executed well. There is a lot of action, blood and death throughout the book with more shootouts than I could count. I never found myself bored or longing for more, except maybe for the final showdown, which fell a bit too short for my taste. And while there is a faint trace of romance, it remains at the sidelines where it belongs – with pompoms, cheering for Kate to kick some ass instead of making out. Things get nasty and gory, and I cherished every minute of it.
THE SETTING AND WRITING
Obviously, this is not fantasy but historical fiction, yet it does require a fair amount of “world-building” nonetheless. The book had a very Western touch to it, and Bowman did well in including elements of the gold-rush, saloons and gangs, shootouts, Native Indians and a fair share of the wild and unforgivable landscape stretching across Arizona.
The writing reads like a cowboy movie, the heavy accent making the Western setting truly come alive and, for me, it was a big part of the charm of this book. It’s not as hard to get into as Blood Red Road regarding the language, but if this grammatically incorrect slang annoyed the shit out of you in Blood Red Road, you might want to reconsider picking up Vengeance Road.
”Now for the love of God, lower that damn pistol.”
“All right,” I says.
And I do.
Right after I shoot him through the skull.
In a nutshell, Vengeance Road fulfills what its title promises – revenge and a roadtrip across historical Arizona – and is an action-packed, delightful read. If you loved Blood Red Road or if you have a thing for Westerns, then this book is for you.