Review: Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman


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Published: 7 November 2017

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Category: Historical Fiction/Young Adult/Westerns

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.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

An adventure right out of the past, Retribution Rails combines the excitement of Saturday afternoon cowboy movies with the rush of searching, whether it be for the truth, freedom from one’s demons, or retribution for murder.

Taking place ten years after the events of Vengeance Road, this book alternates points of view between Charlotte, an aspiring journalist, and Reece, a young man blackmailed and kidnapped into the Rose Riders, the gang whose former leader met his end in the previous novel.

As a companion novel to V.R. and not a direct sequel, I think you could enjoy this perfectly well if you missed out on the first book, as the events, while not rehashed, are gone over enough and characters reappear to continue their story in such a way that you get the gist of things.

I loved how Erin was able to make the voices of the characters come to life. I could hear them in my head while I was reading instead of their words blending together like just so much bland soup. It made the adventure they were having that much more exciting.

I wish more of, maybe most of, the book had been about Reece. Charlotte was a boring character and I had some issues with her personality and morals. She wants to be a journalist more than anything, which is what drew me to her in the first place, but I’m never given any reason to believe that she could be one.

She mentions at least a couple of times that she’d lie in print if she had to and I thought that repugnant for an aspiring journalist. She may well have been a fine writer for all I know, but if she’s so willing to play it loose with the facts, then as Reece says at one point, she ought to be writing novels. Her coming around to that idea at the end made me feel a slight bit better toward her.

The relationships in this book were many, from Kate and Jesse to Charlotte and her mother and on, but two of them struck me as notable.

The one that developed between Reece and Charlotte wasn’t one I particularly liked. It felt forced and while I wouldn’t say rushed, exactly, I’d say it felt like some turning in dimes was done on Charlotte’s part, considering the strong anti-Rose Kid/Reece feelings she had for so long.

Another one that felt strange was the one between Reece and Luther Rose, the man who marked him with the rose brand and dragged him into the gang because he could, supposedly, identify his brother’s killer. There were times when it felt like Luther was holding information back, like he had this secret information on Reece he didn’t want to share unless he had to. Reece’s conclusion at the end, that Luther was the Devil no matter which way you looked at it, was probably right for Reece, but as the reader I felt like something got left out, like there was a storyline that got partially developed and then abandoned.

The action scenes, whether it was a horse chase or a fight aboard a moving train, were thrilling. The gun battles themselves were also a good read; nothing was too simple nor too complicated. The right mix of action and in-between moments made for an interesting, fun novel.

With the book ending in a way that leaves the ultimate fate of two characters up to the reader’s imagination, will there ever be more tales from Erin Bowman and the Old West? Maybe, maybe not, but at least we have these adventures to read until such a time.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

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