Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 1st 2015
Pages: 336

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.
In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.


I absolutely adored the atmosphere of this book: The history of the old southwest, the ruggedness of both the land and the people, and just the overall hardships that people faced in the late nineteenth century frontier territory. The feeling of authenticity was incredible. From the incorporation of the climate, to the infusion of the slang in the dialogue and narration, it was very clear that the author did her homework for this book.

Screenshot (88)

The slang was done so well that I wanted to make it a thing!

After Kate’s father is killed at their small homestead in the northern part of the Arizona territory, Kate has nothing left to lose and isn’t going to accept her father’s murder. She knows full well that this journey of revenge could end up with her facing the same fate, but she flat out does not care. Kate was such a badass heroine, but it was authentic. It wasn’t just for the sake of convenience, it made sense why Kate would be as tough as she was. She was raised almost exclusively by her father, and lived in a very rough place during a very rough time. This quote pretty much nailed Kate’s thoughts:

“So long as they go down, I don’t much care if I go with ’em”

Kate, as “Nate”, finds the kin of her father’s friend, and they insist on traveling with her, and thus begins the crazy adventure. First, you know when gold is involved, things are going to get dicey really fast. Clearly, the guys who killed Kate’s dad aren’t going to be steeped in morality, so Kate and the boys will encounter a ton of violence along the way. There’s action in the fighting, and there’s action in just surviving in the southwestern desert. Vengeance Road is anything but dull!

There were other characters that they encounter along the way, some of whom I positively adored, but this was certainly Kate’s journey. I liked that while she was tough and rugged, and willing to go to hell and back to avenge her father, she still had a femininity about her. She wasn’t some kind of one dimensional caricature, she had many sides to her. She also had a lot of time to figure out who she was and who she wanted to become in her father’s absence, and that was quite lovely to watch. I also was completely fascinated by the way groups of people treated each other. For example, Kate had to pretend to be male for anyone to take her seriously, as women were definitely regarded as second-class citizens at that time. Also, the tensions between the Native Americans and the newcomers to the territory were palpable. Overall, the characterization was well done, and I liked that Kate’s views were expanded upon by the people she met along the way.

I did have a few minor problems. Well, two, one being more minor than the other:

  1. Some of the plot points were a bit predictable for me. While the book didn’t lack action, I did find myself suspecting a lot of the outcomes before they happened.
  2. The romance wasn’t my favorite. Luckily, it was a very small portion of the book, but I just wasn’t feeling a ton of chemistry. Also, it too was predictable for me.

Bottom Line: Vengeance Road pretty much nails the southwest in every conceivable way. If you want a book with an authentic western feel, this is it. If you want one with a tough, no-nonsense heroine, this is absolutely it.

Oh, and make sure you read the author’s note. It’s really interesting!


**Quote taken from uncorrected proof, subject to change**

I am not very musical by nature, but every so often, I hear a song that reminds me of a book. There’s like, four of them out of the hundreds of books I have read. I heard this song right around the time I was reading Vengeance Road, and I feel like they are basically made for each other! Seriously, this song sums up how I felt while reading this book. Also, both are pretty great!

Do you think you’d enjoy reading about the old west? And do songs and books ever just merge together for you?

Posted August 28, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 36 Comments

36 responses to “Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

  1. You know, I feel like I’ve maybe read one POSSIBLY two western-type books? Actually, no, I think it was one. Which is a shame because I’m so intrigued by it as a setting and think it makes for fantastic plot possibilities.

    Anyway, my point is that this sounds SO COOL even if the romance was so-so. Like you said though, it’s such a small part of the book, so I don’t think I’d be too bothered

  2. Awwwwwww
    I has a sad that you didn’t like the romance :'( BUT IT’S OKAY. I am glad you still liked the book overall!

    Kate is such a fantastic character to read about and I totally agree with what you said about her having many sides to her. She isn’t just a character seeking revenge, she was more than that.

    Also the tensions between the Native Americans and the new comers WAS palpable! I was so glad that Kate’s opinions had changed by the end of the book but I also wanted something more in that area I guess.

    Anywayyy, fabulous review, Shannon and I am really glad you liked the book too! 🙂

    • I know, I feel like the black sheep on that respect, most people loved it! I mean, I didn’t HATE it, I just didn’t love it either.

      I totally agree that I would have LOVED to see the Native American stuff delved into deeper, but I guess there’s only so much you can put in one book? I’d have enjoyed this as a duology, I think!

      Thanks so much, glad you liked it too!

  3. I’m glad you liked this one. I’ve been hearing really good things. I’m glad that Kate’s femininity isn’t sacrificed for her quest for vengeance. That’s one of my pet peeves. Although I am sort of bummed to hear the plot is kind of predictable. I’m starting this one tomorrow so hopefully I like it as much as everyone else.

  4. Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Shannon! I loved the slang so much too. It was fun to read about and I kept talking the way Kate and the gang did with my sister and she was very confused. Haha! 😀
    Kate’s character was definitely one of my favorite in the book. I’m sad you didn’t enjoy the romance, but I see where you’re coming from. I’m glad that didn’t take away from your enjoyment though.
    Lovely review, Shannon!

    • The slang was so FUN for me! Especially because I still knew what they were talking about, it wasn’t overdone, just a good amount to get into the atmosphere! Hahha I wish you’d gotten your sister’s reaction on video, that would have been too funny!

      I loved Kate too- she was amazing! And the romance wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t my favorite 😉

  5. YES!! I totally agree – this book was fantastic!! I love your Goodreads comment. LOL! I was typing my review last night, and I kept thinking about the Western lingo and how fun it was!! Definitely loved this one. I’m hoping for more books like this in the YA genre! Fantastic review! 🙂

  6. I love how authentic the writing and the voice was to the Wild West time period. I also liked the Native American aspect of the novel. This book had lots of guts and gore, and I love how unapologetically awesome Kate is. The romance was small thank gosh, and it wasn’t my favorite either. I did enjoy it though even if it was predictable. Nice review <3

  7. I’m usually super weary of books written in dialect but I totally agree with you here Shannon, it just worked so well. I really enjoyed this one too. I’m pretty excited 2015 has brought a western YA micro-trend. It’s like Christmas came early!

    • I know, this trend is fabulous!! And I am weary of dialect too- I almost DNFed Blood Red Road AND The Knife of Never Letting Go (both of which I ended up loving!) because of dialect, but this was just the right amount! Glad you enjoyed it too 😀

  8. I’ve been looking for a book set in the Wild West, so I was so happy when I saw the summary of this one on Goodreads. I’m so glad that the execution is just as good as the concept and that it didn’t disappoint you. 🙂 Definitely going to have to give this one a try and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  9. Great review! I loved this one too. I am not usually a Western person, but I am so glad I gave this one a shot. I had guessed part of the twist at the end, but not all of it. So I didn’t find it super predictable. But then again, I am usually clueless. Ha. I did find the romance super predictable though. While I liked both of the characters individually, there wasn’t as much chemistry as I would have liked. I am really glad that the author didn’t make the romance one of the main parts of the story. That is kind of rare in YA fiction.

    • Hahahah you’re funny. I agree- I didn’t see the WHOLE twist coming, but the romance I guessed from like, minute one. And yeah, he was fine, I just didn’t feel that “heat”. But I don’t really think it was meant to be that kind of book, so it doesn’t much matter I suppose 😉 Glad you enjoyed it too!

  10. I really, really, REALLY want to read this! Books set in the Wild West aren’t so common in YA, especially one that sound as authentic as Vengeance Road. Although I am concerned that the accent will somehow bug me, since I’m sooo uptight about that. >.< But I'm sure I'm going to get over it. Because cowboys. And kickass heroines.

    • I agree, they’re VERY uncommon, which is what makes this so fun 🙂 And the accent isn’t terrible at all- you won’t have to be like “what are they saying!?”, it’s noticeable but not annoying. And YES- cowboys and kick-ass heroines absolutely make up for it! 😀 Hope you love it!

  11. Ohhh I want to read this. I did get approved on netgalley, but for a weird format and I couldn’t put it on my kindle and I JUST WANNA CRY. D: So I probably won’t be reading it (not for lack of wanting though). I’m seriously SO DOWN for some wild west. I read Relic by Renee Collins about…erm, 2 years ago? When it was new. But that’s like the only Wild West book I’ve read! I did like the movie with Jonny Depp as an indian though. I can’t think of the title. OMG. BAD BRAIN, BAD. But I die at John Wayne. Omg. I could fall asleep during ANY of his movies. (Why am I talking about movies?!? I DIGRESS.) Least to say this book + me = needs to happen. It sounds like my kinda adventure! 😀

    • Nooooo 🙁 That is awful! You should tell them about it. No one likes a crappy format! Dude, John Wayne IS boring. I feel like my dad watches it all the time? Because he likes to be with people his own age 😉 BWHAHA I hope he reads that.

      I also feel like the Johnny Depp one had a big controversy about the villain having a cleft? And it was right when I found out Sammy would have one? That is the only reason I know that movie at all, because (don’t hate me) Johnny Depp is not my favorite. How’d we get back on movies? Oopsie.

  12. You have no idea how STOKED I am to read this! I just finished WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER which I think is set in the same setting? Or a similar one? That one was during the Californian Gold Rush of 1869 and it had that cowboy x gold miner x Western atmosphere to it and I am neeeeeeding more from this setting/era!!! Plus, the fact that that book and this book have bad-ass heroines? A MAJOR PLUS. I WANT MORE HEROINES IN THIS ERA KICKING ASSES AND SHOWING TO THE WORLD THEY’RE NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED JUST CAUSE THEY’RE WOMEN!!! Hah!

  13. I love it when author’s have realistic dialogue with slang! It makes me feel like I’m right there in whatever era the book is set in 🙂 I haven’t read any YA books set in the Wild West and I also haven’t read many books with lots of action lately (it’s been mostly romance) but I think Vengeance Road sounds amazing! This is so going on my TBR list right now. Awesome review, Shannon!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf

  14. I loved your review for this book. I haven’t read it, westerns just aren’t my thing but you almost convinced me to pick up. Plus, the COVER is GORGEOUS! I love the slang part, I love slang in my reads.

  15. I loved this book SO much. The atmosphere was so compelling! And Kate’s journey was amazing. Loved being in her head and seeing her grow into her own person. Definitely hoping there’s more books set in this world.
    I did like the romance more than you – but I do wish there had been a bit more!
    Lovely review. 🙂

  16. YAY FOR REALISTIC DIALOGUE TO THE BOOK. I haven’t really read any to do with the old southwest, but afew historicals I’ve read just didn’t seem historical at all because they basically spoke like we do, so ruined it. LOTS OF ACTION. ME LIKEY. Ugh, okay, I can be okay with it being predictable but the romance I couldn’t take if it was a lot of it and took over it, so YAY FOR THAT.

  17. I have this one on my TBR already! The idea of a YA Western book sounds so unique as well, and it sounds like this one was done so well on top of that. I love the idea of the author having looked into this well so she really knew what she writing, and I think that helps pull it off (as well as the plot of course) so well.

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