Cover of Vengeance Road, featuring the title over a field of drawn foliage with pistols crossed above and skulls below

About the Book

Title: Vengeance Road (Vengeance Road #1)
Published: 2015

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Howdy, Y’all
Bonus Factor: Wild West, The Lost Dutchman
Anti-Bonus Factor: Death
Relationship Status: I’m Your Huckleberry

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

YES. ALL THE YES. This cover is not only stunning and fits the story within to a T, but also it’s completely unique to the YA genre. Cover designers: more completely illustrated covers, please!

The Deal:

Kate Thompson and her father have been living contentedly on their homestead outside of Prescott, Arizona, tending to their land and making do. Then Kate’s father is murdered by a gang of outlaws known as the Rose Riders, and Kate sets off on a path of vengeance that will change her life forever—if she survives.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

I’ve got a stubborn streak a mile wide, and I know it can be tough for others to deal with. But my stubborn streak’s got nothing on Kate’s. I’ve never experienced the death of a loved one at another’s hand, of course, but I’d like to think I’d have a cooler head about the situation than Kate, who takes off like a shot after the men who killed her father, without so much as a real plan other than killing them all until they’re dead. But I appreciate her gumption, and her independent spirit, and I’m sure we could be good friends once she gets the taste for revenge out of her system.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

When Kate first takes off after the Rose Riders, she disguises herself as a boy. She also gains two unwanted partners in Jesse and Will Colton, brothers whose father was a friend of her father’s. At first, the brothers are nothing but a nuisance, but soon it becomes clear that one of the two takes Kate’s mind off the path of vengeance, whether she likes it or not.

Talky Talk: Howdy, Y’all

Vengeance Road is a historical novel, and as such, adheres pretty closely to the speech of the time. Meaning, Erin Bowman included improper grammar and old-timey phrases on purpose. This unusual language threw me at first—I’m an editor by day, and trained to pick up on this sort of incorrect use—but I quickly got into the flow of Kate’s thoughts and the book’s dialogue. So much so, that when a character is introduced who spoke “properly,” I was thrown all over again.

Bonus Factor: Wild West

Old timey photo of people from the 1800s West, sitting on horses and with wagons

I don’t read much historical fiction, and much of what I read ends up being historical with a fantastical twist. But Vengeance Road, which is gritty and authentic—down to the nose-wrinkling I did each time someone mentioned how long it had been since they’d bathed—might have been a bit of a gateway drug for me. I’m itching for more Westerns now!

Bonus Factor: The Lost Dutchman

A scenic photo of Weaver's Needle, a rock peak in the Arizona desert

The inspiration for Vengeance Road comes from the legend of The Lost Dutchman, which tells of a hidden gold mine in the Arizona desert. Bowman heard the tale from her husband, then researched it fully—or, as fully as one can research a myth—for the book. A few of the secondary characters in the book are even based on real-life people who lived in the area or have ties to the legend. (Be sure to check out the author’s note for more.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Death

A human skull sits on a shiny table in a dark room

It’s probably not surprising that there’s a lot of death in a Wild West–set story about revenge, but it’s still a bit jarring just how much shizz goes down in Vengeance Road.

Relationship Status: I’m Your Huckleberry

Although you weren’t the deepest of stories, Book, I enjoyed your tale, and you’ve opened my eyes to the possibilities of a whole new genre. I tip my hat to you.

Vengeance Road is now available.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from HMH Books for Young Readers. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.