Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman definitely goes down as my favourite YA Western read of…EVER. Yes, just excuse me while I get a little overexcited. Ahem. I was worried, going into it, because I didn’t love the author’s previous dystopian series. But this?! This was wildly different and entirely spectacular. It also reminded me heavily of Blood Red Road (which I am a ginormous fan of) so that only added to the 9780544466388amazing reading experience!

WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT? It features Kate, whose father is murdered by rogue gold-hungry cowboys, so she takes off after them for vengeance or bust. So much vengeance, peoples. On the way she collects two brothers, Jesse and Will, to join in the quest. Do they get along? NOPE. Do they make a fabulous team? YEP. There are tons of shoot-outs and wild horse chases and gold searching and plot twists that will possibly destroy you. It’s wonderful.

I’ve always been seriously obsessed with the Wild West. Why? Pfft, I don’t know. But some of my other favourite YA westerns are Under A Painted Sky and Walk On Earth a Stranger (I highly recommend both!) and Vengeance Road just tops them all. Westerns scream grittiness and dust and cowboy adventures and it’s so exciting.

The action is also intense! The book spares nothing! If it says “I’m gonna shoot the thing”…the thing will definitely be shot. There are morally grey characters and even Kate herself makes dubious decisions at times in her quest to avenge her father.

Let’s talk about Kate though, because WOW, she’s an amazing protagonist! She was basically gunpowder and cacti and I adored her. So much snark and bitter snapping. She’s not cuddly and she’s not a pushover. But at the same time, she does have a softer venerable side. I think the writer handled her characterisation so well. Plus Kate got things done. She never sat down in the dust and whinged. She was a woman of action.

Plus Kate’s fabulousness just made the romance even more enjoyable. Although the romance doesn’t actually take the spotlight in the story. It’s definitely a subplot. Which just made it all the more enjoyable to me. FIRSTLY: we get guns and gold. SECONDLY: we get Kate and Jesse’s snarky hate/love relationship. Jesse was a complex and interesting character, and quite the “nice guy” and I really wanted him and Kate to have a happily-ever-after.

 

“People don’t gotta like the same stuff. If they did, life would be pretty boring.”

 

The story will also not hesitate to slightly ruin you. OH. I mean this in the best possible way, my friends. It just gets into your heart and gives you all the feels. The relationship between Jesse, looking after his brother Will, is adorable. And the witty, easy banter is divine. Not to mention that these characters go through a myriad of awful things and don’t come out unscathed. You will most likely be gripping the pages and howling. It’s great.

OH! But be prepared: the writing is done in slang. There’s still punctuation, but everyone talks sans grammar. I found the flow of the story was still fine and it only enhanced my enjoyment.

Vengeance Road is amazingly glorious and full of gunpowder. I’m endlessly pleased with how complex the characters were. They could’ve easily fallen into pancake-flat-tropes (especially considering the “don’t need no man” tough female heroine) but they didn’t. I loved everyone! The story was full of action and intense scenes and witty dialogue and I read the whole thing in one day.

“I don’t think I could finish something that think without dying of boredom.”
“Then you ain’t found the right book yet,” I says. “There’s something for everyone.”

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

9780062242914I was so freakishly excited for Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson for several reasons, like a) Rae Carson is a suffocatingly good writer, b) I absolutely adore Westerns, c) that cover is too divine for words, and d) this book is mixing magic and historical fiction and THAT IS GLORIOUS.

And the book didn’t let me down at all. It was beyond perfect! The writing is gorgeous and visual and eloquent and drew me right in.

It basically is the story of Lee who has the magical ability to sense gold (handy, if one live sin the gold rush era)…but after her uncle murders (!!) her parents (!!!) she’s forced to run away to the goldfields ALONE. Well. With her half-Native-American-best-friend, Jefferson. It’s all guns and wagons and pioneers and the hunger for gold.

It did use the ancient trope of a girl disguising as a boy, which I honestly struggle to accept. I mean, I know it’s historical and women have done it forever. But women have different features??? And generally aren’t as big? And the shape is different? AHEM. But whatever.

But let’s talk about the incredible characters! I absolutely couldn’t get enough of their sheer awesome! It’s narrated in 1st person by Leah Westfall. I loved how capable and independent and smart Lee was. She could handle herself and she wanted to be in charge of her own life. But at the same time, she wasn’t running around punching people. She was just quietly and firmly resilient. I adore her basically.

The book, though, is more about the JOURNEY to the Gold Fields and California, than actually digging for gold. But it is a trilogy! (Which I’m a million percent thankful for because the ending was begging for more!) So hopefully we’ll get more goldy stuff soon. But Walk On Earth A Stranger is about the hard, perilous journey. All that stuff those people had to go through?! I’m amazed.

All the secondary characters are all really interesting too! There are a lot of them though, and at times I was blinking stupidly trying to remember the difference between Jefferson, Japser, and Joyner. (HELP ME.) So for a speed reader like me, that was a problem. But moving forward! The character development was amazingWell. If you were a character lucky enough TO LIVE. The death toll is high, folks. Crossing America is not kind on humans.

I absolutely adored the epic beauty that is this book! I would’ve preferred it to have more gold-digging (Lee has this awesome power but isn’t using it?!?) so I’m hanging out for the sequel. I loved the friendship between Jefferson and Lee and totally am rooting for them to get together. Ahem. I also have always had a huge infatuation with the Oregon Trail, so this just fuelled my nerdy heart. I am definitely rooting for Lee and I can’t wait to read more from Rae Carson!

THIS BOOK IS GOLDEN. (Did you see what I did there?)

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry

9781447274575Following on from Elmore Leonard’s Complete Western Stories I decided to give Larry McMurtry a go. Lonesome Dove is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books but I thought I would start with his latest novel which takes on the story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday no less.

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are household names thanks to countless movies depicting their exploits over many decades. But McMurtry takes a very different approach to these two characters of western folklore. McMurtry depicts them as more name than substance and paints them both as deeply flawed men with little redeeming features. Wyatt Earp in particular is portrayed as a drunk, wife-beater and all round recalcitrant. McMurtry’s writing though keeps you entranced and other parallel storylines and characters keep the novel in balance.

I will definitely be checking out Lonesome Dove at some point (i.e. when I am ready to commit to a big book) and continue my western binge. I think Deadwood is definitely due a re-watch.

Buy the book here…