Book Talk: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Book Talk: Vengeance Road by Erin BowmanVengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Published by HMH Books For Young Readers on September 1, 2015
Genres: YA Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: For Review

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!




Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”




When Kate’s father is murdered by a notorious gang, she finds out that it was all because he had a map leading to a hidden gold mine and perhaps there were things her father kept from her. She sets out on a dangerous trek, disguised as a boy, across unforgiving terrain and elements to follow the gang and get revenge for her father’s murder. Along the way she hits danger head on, plus learns the greed that gold can breed, but also meets some people who help her along her quest.


a4I have been loving the branching out that historical YA has been doing lately — I’m so here for all the Wild West and Gold Rush novels! Vengeance Road was all the adventure I had hoped it would be but I wish I would have felt more for the characters.

What I liked:

The setting — Wild West, y’all: Erin Bowman really knew how to give this gritty feel of life during this time. I could imagine them riding their horses through the plains and along the river. I could see the rocky terrain through the mountains. The small town main streets from the Western movies.  The effects of the gold rush. The saloons. The lawlessness that abounded. The danger of life in this time. I love being plopped in this time period even though I’d never want to live it. Also, I really kind of loved that you got that rough vernacular with how the characters spoke. It took a little bit to get used to but it added to that Wild West scene in my head.

The action & adventure: I *LOVE* a good adventure novel. I love fantasy obviously but sometimes I just want an adventure novel that IS set in this world. Kate’s quest definitely fit the bill there. This was definitely a page-turner as Kate sets out on this mission for revenge in a blaze of fury. There are shoot-outs, perilous escapes, dangerous gangs and also shocking moments that I didn’t expect. Lots of hold-your-breath moments! I was so happy to find such an action-packed adventure that surges forward into more and more dangerous situations until the OMG explosive conclusion to Kate’s quest for revenge.

The actual high stakes: Sometimes I read books that I think will have high stakes because of the nature of the book and I feel like they don’t really live up to them…this was not one of those. I could FEEL the high stakes of this book. Kate is propelled forward with intensity to exact revenge on this awful gang members who killed her father and you can FEEL how reckless she will be to make sure that happens….no matter if she dies or not. She was going out guns a-blazing and she didn’t really care what the outcome was as long as she avenged her father’s death. When the characters were in danger, I believed it. The ruthlessness I expected? Totally there. Erin Bowman created a world of grit and danger and it lived up to what it was set up to be.

What I wanted more of:

The characters: I really enjoyed the character of Kate. She doesn’t take any crap, is brave and I love a lady who isn’t afraid of emotions that others would consider not lady like. She is feisty and unapologetic on her quest for revenge but you also start to see slivers of her personality…vulnerable sides, sadness, etc. I understood her need for revenge and I felt for her losing her dad like that. But I just didn’t feel any MORE for her besides a very basic level of admiration and care for her. I wanted to care more for her but I didn’t. Obviously I was rooting for her and cared what happened to her but I normally FEEL so strongly about characters and I just feel like she will fade away for me because I wanted some sort of more depth or dimension to her. I can’t explain it because it’s just this FEELING I always get with characters that stay with me and I know I’m probably in the minority. I also didn’t really feel much for any of the other characters to be honest. They were just…there for me. I rooted them on and wanted them to make it out alive but I just wanted more from them.



factors+ the action & adventure, the setting, the page-turning nature of the story
–  wanted more to the characters

a5people wanting an adventure, historical fiction lovers, people who like Westerns or are interested in that time period, people who need their historical fiction to be action-packed

a8Vengeance Road was such an exhilarating adventure with a gritty setting. I wanted high stakes and danger and I got that — shoot-outs, notoriously vicious gangs, horseback chases, lawlessness, secrets, lies and the greed brought from gold-mining. Kate was a character whose fury and thirst for revenge was felt and believed but, in general, there was just something lacking in all of the characters for me…which was sad because I’m so character driven. I just wanted more and they didn’t quite reach their potential I didn’t think.



a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?



The Perpetual Page-Turner

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I loved this one! I’m also so excited about all these western YAs we have been getting. I just read WALK THE EARTH A STRANGER this week and it was also amazing. I really liked how fast paced VR is though, and how much went out. It was definitely a very gritty western! It made me want to watch True Grit as soon as I was done.

    • Ah I’m planning on reading that one soon so I’m so happy you loved it!! And I still have not seen True Grit but you better believe I will be soon!

  2. I LOVED Vengeance Road. It has created what could very quickly turn into an obsession with Western stories. It was just so action packed and fun! Also gritty is the best way to describe it. Here’s hoping more YA Western makes it way into the world very soon 😀

    You’re right in that there isn’t much more to Kate than her revenge. I hadn’t actually thought about it that much until now because while reading I was so caught up in the story. The other characters certainly could have been a lot more developed. I think Jesse was the only one other than Kate that had some sort of relative depth.

    • Yes same…I want more! I feel like the only ones I’ve heard of are Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson! I read Under A Painted Sky which was Oregon Trail setting and great!

      I understood her huge need for revenge but I think it hindered me in getting to KNOW her and care for her in any other way in that hoping she set things right and feeling bad for what happened to her.

  3. I have VERY similar thoughts to you on this one. The plot was fun & the stakes really were high. The setting was well-done & I really believed the characters were setting out on this gritty adventure. . . but the characters. Just. The characters. There was something *missing*. I think part of it for me was that by the beginning of the book Kate already has set her mind on vengeance, so there’s no before and after. It’s hard to see the character progression there because there was no lead-in. And none of the other characters were that compelling for me either.

    • This is a good point! We just right into everything happening and there’s no getting to know much about her to see any sort of real and impactful arc. I think you just put into words what I couldn’t about why I felt like distant from her in a way and how I felt like only see mostly revenge hindered me from caring more than I did!

  4. Man, I really want to read this one, but I generally prefer character driven novels. I’m not sure if I’d like it now…

    That cover though!! OMG

  5. This post is a great example of how a book can go from “meh” for me to, “OMG I need to read this!” I tend to be character driven as well, but you made the plot sound so amazing I’m going to have to read this anyway!

  6. I totally agree with you about loving this micro-trend. My mom and I subscribe to Encore with our cable TV package which has an entire channel for Westerns so I’m pretty excited to be able to get some western books along with my TV/movie fix.

    I think the thing I remember most after finishing this is definitely how evocative all of the settings were in the book. I also wanted more from a lot of the characters–especially in the romance respect. I also wanted a bit more from Liluye. I feel like Bowman made a solid effort to be diverse and respectful and she mostly did but I wish we had a little bit more about Liluye to sort of balance things out if that makes sense.

  7. I really enjoyed VENGEANCE ROAD! I’ve been loving Western YA this year, and this one was no exception. I’m so glad you had fun reading it, and I definitely agree with the three things you’ve chosen to talk about specifically here!

  8. I totally agree! I really loved the action and adventure and I totally felt like I fell right into that wild west setting! I wanted a bit more from Kate too… But I also think that’s because she’s so hell bent on vengeance and protecting her feelings that she doesn’t open up to the readers as much. This book was so much fun and now I want more YA Westerns!!!