Book Talk: Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: Retribution Rails by Erin BowmanRetribution Rails by Erin Bowman
Series: Vengeance Road #2
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on November 7, 2017
Genres: Historical, Western
Pages: 374
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece's path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

In this thrilling companion to Vengeance Road, dangerous alliances are formed, old friends meet new enemies, and the West is wilder than ever.

Rereading Vengeance Road before launching into Retribution Rails (which I keep mis-titling Retribution Road—does anyone else struggle with this title?), it was one of those times where, though I still liked the book, I couldn’t get as caught up in it. The writing really annoyed me this time; Kate’s got this thick southern frontier accent, and I don’t enjoy reading dialect of any sort except on rare occasions. Retribution Rails has a much more accessible style and another breakneck plot; it’s even better than Vengeance Road.

Unlike book one, Retribution Rails is a dual POV narrative, and Bowman does a great job with this; both narratives are distinct, and they’re worlds away from Kate’s narrative voice. There’s much less dialect used in this book, basically the minimum amount needed to convey the setting, which I loved. Reece’s has a bit more, and Charlotte’s much less, which fits their personalities and education levels.

Charlotte’s delightful. She’s an aspiring journalist out to land a big story so that she can force an editor to take her on as a writer. This plan gets sidetracked first by her train getting robbed by the Rose Riders. Her plans get derailed a bunch of other ways I won’t spoil, but her other big issue is her evil uncle’s Claudius-esque plan to marry her mother to weasel his way into her dad’s inheritance. Charlotte’s fiery, determined, and stubborn, so I think she’s fantastic.

Along the way, Charlotte’s forced by circumstances to work with her enemy, Reece Murphy, an infamous member of the Rose Riders. Though I can’t say this ship worked for me given the circumstances, I did love the dynamics of this. I’m pretty much always a fan of stories where very different people are forced to work together and to discover that they have more in common than they would have initially thought.

Reece takes a bit longer to really bond with for obvious reasons. His story’s a dark one, and it’s deliciously complex. While he didn’t voluntarily choose his life—well, he did, but the only other option was death—he still has ended up living a life of crime and murder. He’s done terrible things; he’s avoided as many of them as he could, but there’s no getting the damn spots off of those hands. One thing that Bowman did really well was show that, while deep down he’s a good person, those years with the Rose Riders are really getting to him; he can feel himself starting to change and lose a grip on his original values. It’s pretty subtly done and mostly shown through his complicated relationship with Boss.

Kate and Jesse are in the story too; it’s been ten years since Vengeance Road. Poor Kate (who would not like me calling her that but whatevs) is pregnant when the Rose Riders come busting back into her life. Though obviously that’s not my ideal, I do love that she’s so thoroughly herself still, even her dialect unchanged. She still kicks major ass while pregnant, and I’m so grateful for that.

The plot’s interesting in that it’s less interwoven than I’d have expected it to be, which sounds lazy, but I actually really liked that. Charlotte has to take care of her story and Reece must wrap up his own. I like that there’s really no sense of them saving each other; they save themselves.

Though I’ve never been into westerns, these books make me want a whole bunch more westerns in YA. Retribution Rails is a fun, fast-paced read full of gunfights and murder.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


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