Unless you follow my art instagram, it will come as a surprise that I really enjoyed playing Red Dead Redemption 2. Everything from the setting and story to the characters was unforgettable, and I just found myself getting lost in the feel of the Wild West. It was definitely started an obsession as I suddenly found myself watching old westerns and hunting for books that kept this western vibe going even just a little while longer. This is when I found Erin Bowman’s books and really couldn’t say no.
Vengeance Road, and its companion novel, Retribution Rails take place in the 1870’s and 1880’s Arizona when it’s known as the Arizona Territory. Not quite a duology, the two connected stories begin with the events of Vengeance Road as Kate Thompson returns to her home to find her father murdered by a band of outlaws. Faced with a burned down homestead and dead father, Kate pursues the group and begins a hunt for vengeance.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Vengeance Road: (Book One) 4/5 Stars
I’ll be honest, I read the first few sentences of this book and questioned myself a bit. It is written with a Wild West/country speaking style so it’s a bit of a learning curve on the first page, though definitely immerses the reader in the world/characters more. The first page is also a knock out as we are immediately thrown into Kate finding her father dead, and not just dead, but hanged. It’s a heart stopping moment to begin a book with, but Kate propels herself and the us into the hunt right there. I think that is one of the big pros for this book; it doesn’t sit around and wait to give us the story. Instead we are steered right into the hunt with Kate.
There are several elements to this book that kept me glued to the plot and a need to know more; Western vibes, well written tension/danger, and the characters. The western part is easy since I’ve already said I was in a state of obsession then and even now. This isn’t quite the same, but even the Arizona territory in the book has different aspects of danger woven into the daily life and Kate’s hunt. From the threat of Native Americans at the time to the outlaws, and even the law the Arizona territory keeps the reader on their toes, and Kate on the move. The book didn’t seem to want to slow down at any point.
The last bit of the book pulling me along were the characters. Kate of course, is a powerhouse, not stopping in the midst of her plan and plowing ahead. The brothers, Will and Jesse, add a sense of camaraderie and questioned sanity to her plan, and Liluwyee (Lil) is the perfect addition to the group even if they didn’t know it. This little group definitely got me through the book, and made me want to pick up the next book even knowing it wasn’t technically a normal follow up.
Retribution Rails: (Book Two) 5/5 Stars
I loved the first book, Vengeance Road, but I think the rating came from me needing more. To be forewarned, this novel follows two new characters, the Rose Kid (Reece Murphy) and Charlotte Vaughn as the events from Vengeance Road come back up. Reece, pulled into the very Rose Riders gang that hunted the gold has only one chance of being let go; find the man who gave him a marked gold coin. While on a train robbery he meets Charlotte, and the two are set on a crash course of sorts as their paths keep crossing and the two end up needing to work together.
When I first picked up this book and read the summary, I wasn’t so sure how this one would go. I had fallen in love with Kate, Jesse, and the gang and wasn’t looking forward to new characters taking over. The good news? We get them back!!! Well sort of, it’s not entirely the same as neither one gets their own POV, but I’ll take it! This might be a spoiler, but I was needing someone to say this when I looked into this book and gosh darn it I will say it. While new character POVs can be a frustrating thing for me, this one grew on me and I was hurting with Reece’s situation even as I was judging his choices, so I think this one was a success.
Overall, with Retribution Rails, what got it a five star was its handling of new characters, old characters, and the style with which it ended out the story and the danger we’ve been seeing since the first book. I was glued to the pages and completely following the two point of views through it all. For a multi-pov story this one was easy to get lost in, and just enjoy. If you’re looking for a change of pace and story these two books are definitely with picking up and trying out. This was a great change to what I’ve been reading lately, and honestly I’m sad I haven’t found more YA westerns like this out there.