Excerpt Review: VENGEANCE ROAD by Erin Bowman

Title: Vengeance Road
Author: Erin Bowman
Publisher: HMH for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1st 2015
Genre: YA, Western


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.   


Being part of the VR Posse has its perks - one of which was getting early access to the first few chapters of the novel. I cannot wait to get my hands on a full copy (still waiting to hear about an ARC!) but until then, here's my chapter-by-chapter review of Vengeance Road.


WHAT A START! This is exactly the kind of first chapter I'm always trying to write - full of action, straight into the story and finishes with a bang. Quite literally. If I wasn't already sold on a YA Western, this first chapter took hold of me by my lapels and shook me into needing more.

The first thing I noticed is Kate's distinctive voice. I love an accented character in a novel, done right, and Kate is emphatically done right. It feels authentic, like I snapped my fingers and I'm in the Wild West. Which is so important coming into the first chapter of a novel. Not just that, she's a girl pretending to be a boy, and it has a really masculine edge to it - I can't describe it any better than that!

First line: 'It weren’t no secret Pa owned the best plot of land ’long Granite Creek, and I reckon that’s why they killed him.'

Favourite line: 'What the stout fella don’t seem to realize is that a strong drink can numb the soul as good as any prayer. Hell, I muttered “Oh, God” ’bout a dozen times after I found Pa swinging, and it ain’t like it brought him back to life.'


If the first chapter was action, this one tugs on the heart strings. The reality of what has happened to Kate - her dad just being killed and taken from her so suddenly - actually hits the reader. It's obvious to everyone except her she's in shock, and I can't help but feel bad for the kid.

Something else I love is the depth of research Bowman must have gone to in writing this. I'll admit that I don't know a huge amount about that era, but the historical element to this is super interesting, especially the tensions between different races. 

First line: 'I let the door bang shut, but it don’t block out the image of his face — leathered skin and dark beard, vicious eyes that went wide the moment he realized my intentions.'

Favourite line: 'The fog of whiskey’s long gone, and yet I unravel like a drunken fool.'


The pace of this chapter is a little slower after the action of the first two, but you get more of a feel for the landscape and the bleakness of a frontier ravaged by the Gold Rush. There's some real old Western cliches in this chapter, in the saloon, that Bowman does well - mixing the familiar with just enough spice from Kate to keep it fresh.

First line: 'I ride south with the dawn and don’t look back.'

Favourite line: “I ain’t a Rose Rider. I want ’em dead just like you, and alls you’s done is lose me a horse and get yerself killed.”


It kills me that this is the last chapter I have access to! In this chapter, you start to get some real answers for why Kate's father was killed and her anger and thirst for vengeance is reaching fever pitch. Definitely makes me want to read on!

We're also introduced to some new characters, which is good since Kate has been fairly alone for the first three chapters (with the exception of a few minor characters popping up to point guns in her face or tell her information). Since I know the name Colton from the character reveals, I'm looking forward to seeing how the brothers end up helping Kate on her quest for vengeance. 

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait until September 1st...

First line: 'Abe’s appears on the horizon just after dawn.'

Favourite line: “Yer real,” says the boy ’cross the way. He’s so small, his chin barely clears the table. Maybe five years old. “Will said it were all horseshit.”

So far, I'm pegging VR at around 4/5 star rating! Have you read Vengeance Road? Are you looking forward to reading it? Comment below!