Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
YA Historical Fiction/Western
This was the first book (and only, so far) I got from Uppercase book box service. I was initially a tiny bit disappointed, because it's clearly a Western, and I wasn't sure I'd like it.
The cover, however, is GORGEOUS. I don't like orange, yet I love the desert flowers and how they contrast with the skulls and pistols. The lettering is also awesome. No surprise that the author has a background in design. Not that she designed the cover, but I imagine she had some ideas and was part of the process. Also, I usually loathe actually dealing with covers as I read, but the paper this was printed on was very pleasant to the touch, not slick and slippery. I actually read the entire book without taking the cover off in a huff.
The book starts with a bang. Kate, our heroine ("protagonist" sounds too anachronistic for this yarn), shoots a man in cold blood on page nine. He is a murderer, but still. It sets a tone where you're never sure how far Kate will go down her road of vengeance. It also gives her plenty of room for character growth, if that's what the author is aiming for.
I was happily reading along, enjoying the story, the characters, the slowly budding romance, the terrific sense of place, the acknowledgement of the diversity of the population, when page 227 caught me completely off guard. Did. Not. Expect. That.
Then again, on page 285, I got another shock. In retrospect, I could have pieced that one together earlier, but I didn't, okay?
Those two events earned the extra half star for me. The first one made the book a little darker, and the second one showed the author had more up her sleeve than I'd expected.
About the dialogue--I noticed some reviewers were entirely put off by it. I don't understand why. I didn't find it overdone to the point of distraction, and it was certainly appropriate for the story being told. Why would Kate talk like a 2015 teenager? THAT would have been distracting.
I also enjoyed the author's afterward, with her story-behind-the-story.
The next paragraph is a spoiler!
I was puzzled by the ending, or rather, the bit just before the ending. What was the point of separating our young lovers, then reuniting them? Did we just need to see that Kate could stand on her own two feet without Jesse if she had to? I think we already knew that. Did she want to create one last round of will-they-or-won't-they tension? Um, the fact that I had a chapter left pretty well signified that there was time for a reunion. Although I guess after Will's death, I didn't feel a happy ending was 100% guaranteed. Whatever the purpose was, it felt like it just tacked on an extra chapter after the story had already resolved.