Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Publisher: HMH Books
Release Date: September 2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Plot: 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.
Gosh, I love it when I fall in love with an unpopular book.
Okay, I wouldn’t say this book is unpopular in the sense that people dislike it, but the amount of people talking about it on Youtube? Writing about it on Goodreads? Taking snaps of it on Instagram? Not so much.
But man, it should be.
I did not realise how immersive a book can be until I picked up Vengeance Road. I was drawn in firstly by it’s appearance, because sometimes I’m a shallow bitch, and I can’t help it. This books looks and feels like the old journal from the story. The pages are deckled too, which doesn’t hurt that wild west aesthetic either.
Because of the lack of publicity, because of the lack of buzz, I reckoned this story to be an average one; a rather romanticized version of the old west (not that I had the knowledge to determine whether it was accurate or not) filled with poor portrayals of Native Americans and a romance that just look plain weird in 1800’s Arizona. But oh, I was so wrong.
Vengeance Road is a violent story about a girl who wants revenge for the murder of her father. She is an angry character, one who can’t see straight because of it, who doesn’t give two hoots about love, about niceness, about practicality. She isn’t afraid to kill, to con, or to disguise, and I was so happy about that. I wanted a female lead who had been through such trauma that the appearance of a love interest couldn’t make her weak at the knees; she had a life mission, not caring if she survived, a hot cowboy wasn’t going to stand in her way.
The story is also spoken phonetically by our protagonist; Kate Thompson. She speaks as if we’re actually there with her, forcing us to speak as if we’re in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. I feel the heat on the back of the neck as we ride along the river, can smell the smoke of the drinkers in the saloon. For a good chunk of this book, I even listened to soundtracks of old westerns because of how much I was addicted to this book.
Supporting characters have fantastic portrayals and depth too. I’m not talking half-hearted. There are some who a fierce and strong and will not stoop despite the many boots on their backs. Characters who begin to unlearn prejudice and soften and grow and develop. I loved them all, ones who you weren’t supposed to and the ones who you absolutely should.
At a stretch, you could call this book a ‘road trip’ story, if you include murder and bar brawls, and of course, vengeance.