by Erin Bowman
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
View at the Traffic light:
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.
When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.
Oh, Vengeance Road. I wanted to love you. I mean, look at that cover! It’s fierce and awesome and I was just so, so sure I could love anything contained within its pages. Add in the fact that this is a revenge story, which I’m always drawn to, and it sounds like it had all the makings of a book I’d love.
In short: I did not. I didn’t dislike it either, to be fair. But as reviews kept pouring it heaping praise upon this book, I just grew more and more certain I would love it. And when I read it for myself, here’s what I found: A fun, fast-paced adventure story. . . in which I cared exactly 0% about any of the characters. Everything else was compelling, but without characters, there’s not really a story I’m invested in.
And when I say I don’t care about the characters, I don’t mean I don’t care FOR them. I have no opinions on whether I like or dislike them because I just. don’t. care. We have:
Kate- The main character. The book starts the day her dad is hanged by the Rose Riders so that they can steal the map that points them in the direction of gold. She’s take-charge and springs into action immediately, disguising herself as a boy and setting out on a road for vengeance. She’s courageous and ruthless, and not afraid to spill blood in her quest–even innocent blood. By all accounts, Kate is a character I should LOVE. This is exactly the character type I love to read about. BUT. . . I found Kate’s character very one-note. Her story is all about revenge, and little else. I think it’s possible to write a character so consumed by their quest for revenge that there’s little else left to them(take The Count of Monte Cristo, which is one of my favorite books), but I didn’t get that here. I think part of it might also be because the story opens the day Kate’s dad dies, so the reader never gets to see what Kate is like *before* she sets out. There’s nothing to compare her revenge-driven self to.
Will and Jesse- Will and Jesse are the guys who end up joining Kate’s quest. The deal is that they’ll help her get her vengeance if they can have part of the gold. Kate doesn’t care about riches, so she accepts. For a long period of time the two seemed interchangeable because their relationship with Kate wasn’t all that different, until one started taking on a more romantic tone(a relationship I have no feelings about either way). Again, they were fine characters, I just. . . didn’t really care. I didn’t care if bad things happened to them, I didn’t really care if Jesse and Kate got together. I had no reason to.
The Rose Riders- I definitely felt the Rose Rider gang, the villains of the story, were the most interesting characters. . . but I still didn’t really care there, either. We only really see much of the leader, who is a pretty terrifying villain all in all. The only time I ever felt any urgency is the book was because of the Rose Riders.
I’m a character driven reader most of the time. Every once in awhile, a book with SUCH a great plot will make me keep reading even if I feel the characters are flat. Vengeance Road is not an example of this. I read this book quickly because while I was reading, I was hooked. Bowman has adventure and grit down. I did really feel like I was in Arizona in the 1870s. I was never bored or restless while reading, which is why I did say I liked it above. However, with so many people loving this one, I have to say that I just found it a pretty decent to average story. Fun, but ultimately forgettable, and for me it all comes down to the characters.
An adventurous read, but I wanted it to go a bit deeper and make me CARE about what happened to the characters, which I never actually did. My overall feelings are mixed. I did enjoy the story, which is why I gave it a positive rating in the end, but I know it’s not a story that will stay in my head for very long. 3/5 cupcakes.