Raw | Bloody | Thrilling
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.
I came for vengeance and stayed for the gold. That’s what this book is made of. Pure Gold.
The story follows eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson back in the Wild West, who set out to avenge her father’s death, disguised as a boy. It was a journey towards her death or her ultimate vengeance, and both options were much more desirable than just letting go. She expected a long road, gritty plains and a final confrontation with her father’s killers: a band of notorious cowboys called the Rose Riders. However what she didn’t anticipate were long-hidden secrets, and a welcoming group of allies: two brothers and a young Apache girl. Kate soon learned that some men would stop at nothing to get their hands on gold and such a quest could prove fatal not only to her, but also to her companions.
I have never read a Western book before but I used to watch a lot of movies and TV shows, specifically Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, which I totally adored. However this genre never really appealed to me in literature for no particular reason. But thankfully I picked up Vengeance Road and I can honestly say that it is everything you could ever want in a Western book. Bowman perfectly managed to add her own elements to the old Wild West while still staying true to the classical western style, with cowboys, saloons, outlaws, and gun fightings along the desert plains.
The story starts off like the shot of a pistol. We are instantly plunged into a cold-hearted murder with dark long-hidden secrets and bullets shot in the blink of an eye. Bowman did not shy away from blood and grit and the way certain deaths are described just made my skin crawl. Pure nastiness is what you will get here, despite what the pretty cover may suggest. Gunfights, Stetsons, hot desert plains, poker games in saloons, vengeance…and much more brought the classical western culture back to life in this book. What makes it stand out more is the fact that it doesn’t hold back for morality’s sake but focuses on revenge as if nothing else matters in this world and does so without judging the character’s actions or trying to justify them.
“Sure, sometimes you gotta let things go, but other times you can’t till you set things right.”
The writing is impeccable. Bowman’s writing is so rich and descriptive that it felt like I was watching a movie the whole time reading the book. It makes you picture Kate’s journey so clearly, as if you’re one of her companions, on a trail so gritty it almost leaves you breathless. What made the story even more authentic was the late 1800s dialect used both in the narrative (Kate’s pov) and also in the dialogue. Be aware that there are a lot of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that are used on purpose to enhance the effect of the dialect, and while this took some getting used to I think it was quite effective in transporting the reader back to the Wild West.
If you’re looking for a badass female character then look no further. Kate is such a unique and strong woman who stays true to her intentions no matter what the cost. Her father’s death instilled in her such a need for vengeance that left no room for remorse, and shot the killers with such ease that left her wondering how she was able to accomplish it. However, while she didn’t spare any second thoughts for the Rose Riders- whom she regarded with such contempt and deserving of the most horrifying deaths- she did grieve for the people who inadvertently lost their lives because of her own quest. This put to light the fact that she cared much deeper than she was likely to admit. Her vengeance is ultimately her way of coping with her father’s death, which in turn shows how much she loved and respected him.
“When I were first learning to shoot a rifle, Pa told me that nearly every battle people face is in their heads. If you think you can’t do something, you won’t. If you believe you can, it’s only a matter of time before you will.”
One cannot fail to mention Liluye, a Native American girl who later on joins Kate on her journey. She is such a strong character and while she felt a bit stereotypical at times, I think it was Bowman’s way of acknowledging the shameless racism that was present back then. Liluye came from a different culture, one that Kate and her companions did not understand and showed great aversion towards. Jesse and Will did not show any inclination to talk to her while Kate kept calling her name wrong no matter how many times Liluye tried to correct her. And I appreciated the fact that she called them out whenever they showed the slightest prejudice and did not comply to their petty remarks.
I absolutely adored the Colton brothers. They are both loyal and quite stubborn, and this is what eventually led them onto Kate’s trail. But they also have contrasting characteristics that set them apart. Jesse is reliable, protective and always focused on the task at hand, an attribute that is the result of a gruesome past. His short-temper tended to clash a lot with Kate’s prickly nature, which was surprisingly hilarious at times. Will on the other hand has a more upbeat character and is always ready to put forth a word of caution and I extremely enjoyed reading his interactions with the others. However the journey at times left him feeling sour and made me realise how much it was truly affecting him.
There is no love triangle or insta-love in this book…thank the cacti! Nonetheless, there is a slow-burn romance, which did not in any way influence the main plot and I think it was a wonderful addition to the story. In a world surrounded by death and greed, love could still find a way to blossom.
It is quite ironic to have the villains named ‘The Rose Riders’. They truly taint the image of a rose, leaving its mark on their victims and keeping the thorns ready for their next prey. They represent the infinite greed of men, where not enough gold could ever satisfy them and a human life was worth nothing in their own eyes. It was actually quite disturbing to read about this group of people who might appear quite ordinary but in reality are foul and ruthless.
“For some reason, this is the moment I know I’m gonna be all right; that the hurt might never fade, and my heart might always long for a stubborn cowboy with squinty eyes, but I’ll make do. Sure as the sun will rise.”
I highly recommend this book even if you’re not that into the Western genre. It might surprise you! x
- Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Western
- Edition: HMH Books for Young Adults, September 2015, Hardcover
- Pages: 327
- Trigger Warning: scenes containing blood and gore | explicit death scenes