Since starting Vengeance Road, every piece of writing and conversation has taken on a Western vibe. It’s 100% the fault of this novel. The narrator’s voice is so strong that it actually affected my life. I only wish I could sound as authentic as Kate Thompson herself.
Vengeance Road first caught my eye a few months back when I saw the cover reveal. Boy, what a beauty! I will likely be buying the novel despite receiving a physical ARC copy (which captured the beauty but not quite).
Of course I hoped the novel would be good (why wouldn’t I?) but as a YA with romance, I did worry about how truly gritty it would be. If that happens to be one of your concerns, do not fret. Vengeance Road is not a fluffy tale that’s all talk but no bite. The romantic interests are on the back burner while a blood thirsty hunt dominates the novel.
Living in such a harsh environment means that one must become equally jarring to survive. Kate must play a bold game of cat and mouse to fulfill her promise of revenge. She’s unforgiving in that the facts are the facts. Right off the bat, she unapologetically kills two men. With ease, I can imagine her imitating Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride - "you killed my father, prepare to die." That sets up the mood of the rest of the novel. There’s a high risk to this challenge that likely will end up with no one walking away. It’s a wild ride from start to finish. The novel is a quick read with a speedy pace as Kate speeds after the Rose Riders with a thirst for blood. I’m surprised her horse didn’t drop dead in the pursuit.
The plot is a bit like any classic cowboy movie. The trio are on a rugged quest on the lookout for gold and blood. There’s love and death, betrayals, regret, crazy hero antics, and witty smack talkin’. Even though the writing is so fantastic in bringing this story to life, I find the plot a bit lacking in creativity. I did enjoy that the idea for the novel came from a true historical moment. And no, I’ve never read a novel quite like this, but the cowboy movies I have seen do sing the same tune.
All that is made up with the author’s choice of how to tell the story.
As said, the author’s writing style is outstanding. Easily, it’s the best part of the novel to me. It stole the “scene” in the first few pages, the first few paragraphs. At the end of the first chapter, I was head over heels in love. If you want to see beautiful writing at work, pick up this novel. The voice of the narrator will carry you away.
Beyond the harsh scene of the world, the characters have their own set of personal issues. Kate’s parents are dead. Jessie can’t handle the past. Will... Will is in love with a woman from the pleasure house and worries so strongly about his family’s well being. And then there’s Liluye; Lil is my girl. She speaks with wisdom, suffers such pain, and still manages to live freely.
My biggest issue with the novel is: Liluye speaks like a stereotypical Native American. By the timeVengeance Road takes place, Native Americans were already familiar enough with the English language to not speak like “savages.” How she speaks isn’t even consistent. To be honest, even the voice of Kate fades toward the end. I get it - it can be hard to keep such a unique voice the entire length of the novel. I just wish Liluye had been treated with more respect than as a symbol of some character’s developmental point.
The novel does gives insight to “minority” groups of 1800′s Arizona - ladies and Indians. Women weren’t terrible common in the West in early settlements. It was a "man's world" and Kate verifies this by dressing as a man as she travels. We also get brief flashes of what life is like for the remaining tribes. Plenty of the characters carry their prejudices. At times, she and her companions are cruel to the innocent in their quest for vengeance. People that shouldn’t die, do. People that shouldn’t be hurt, are. And there are some heart wrenching twists that I didn’t see coming.
Anyone that enjoys action, adventure, and historical fiction novels should pick up Vengeance Road. There’s a touch of romance, plenty of grit, treasure hunts, and a young woman kicking ass. Were I to pick three novels to recommend from all the books I’ve read this year, Vengeance Road would be on that list! I encourage you to ride over to your local bookstore and pick up this beautiful novel. Just remember to buckle up and put on your best cowboy boots - it’s going to be one heck of a ride.
I received an eARC of VENGEANCE ROAD from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I also won an ARC edition from Goodreads as a First Reads giveaway winner! Thank you!
Writing Style: 5/5
All Around Idea: 4/5