**An ARC was sent by the publisher for my honest opinion. All thoughts and comments are my own and not influenced by receiving a copy of this book. A huge thank you to HMH Teens for sending a copy!**
I want to start this review by saying this story was amazing. It is not a sequel to Vengeance Road, it is a companion novel. It takes place about 10 years after the first story. It was fantastic to be back in Bowman’s western world. I loved every moment of this story.
Short recap: Charlotte Vaughn didn’t know how much her life would change when she boarded a train for Prescott. The infamous Rose Riders tried to rob the train Charlotte was on and things did not go according to plan. Her path intersects with Reece Murphy, otherwise known as the Rose Kid. Reece wants to leave the Rose Riders and Charlotte wants to save her late father’s legacy, together these two will find out that they are the answers to each other’s problems.
The characters in this story stood out the most to me. They were fabulous and well developed. Charlotte was such a determined, head strong, compassionate, and fierce force of a woman. She is living in a time when women are seen as the weaker sex and treated like meek creatures incapable of taking care of themselves. Charlotte was not weak and she knew how to take care of herself. It felt like a breath of fresh air to read Charlotte renounce typical gender roles and do what she was told she could not do. She had two aspirations in life: become a female journalist in a male dominated industry and save her mom from a horrible marriage to her late father’s brother (her uncle). Charlotte was the type of protagonist I love to read about – she developed and grew as the story went along. She learned that not everything was cut and dry – meaning that not everyone in the Rose Riders gang was automatically a bad person. I can’t say it enough how much I liked Charlotte.
Reece Murphy was just as good. He was pulled into the Rose Riders against his will and forced to become the Rose Kid. He was raised to value life and was forced to watch the family that took him in at a young age be brutally murdered. Talk about traumatic! I adored Reece’s character as well. The way he developed and stayed true to himself was great to read. And then to read Charlotte and Reece find a way to work together was a joy! There were some romantic feelings between these two but those did not come until very late in the story. That was wonderful because it meant the romance did not overshadow the actual story.
Remember how I mentioned this is a companion novel to the Vengeance Road? That means the first two characters we fell in love with returned! Kate and Jesse have a huge role in this story, even if it is 10 years after the first book. These two fit into this story perfectly. They just added to the story and it worked so well. I won’t give away what happens when they join forces with Charlotte and Reece, you’ll have to read and find out.
This was a non-stop adventure with twists and turns everywhere. It was fast paced and brilliant. I could not put this book down and when I wasn’t reading, I wanted to be reading. There was so much research that went into this novel and it was impressive. Bowman used actual events from that time period and weaved them into the story which gave it more of a historical fiction feel. Also, she used non-standard dialect when it came to Reece, members of the Rose Rides, and even Jesse and Kate. That alone gave the story more an authentic feel. However, using non-standard dialect could sometimes mean something negative when it comes to the characters that speak it. It could mean that they are unintelligent due to no education or the society in which they were raised. In Reece’s case, it helped further develop his character and gave me the impression that he was tough, rugged, and trying to perceive himself as the toughest Rose Kid there ever would be.
I cannot say enough good things about this story. The characters from the first novel fit perfectly into the this story. I loved reading this from start to finish, and I was saddened when it was over. This makes me want more western YA novels. I highly recommend this to everyone. You don’t have to read Vengeance Road first, you could actually read Retribution Rails first and then go back to VR. Either way, please read this story.