Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thursday #Review - Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman #YALit #Western @erin_bowman @HMHKids

Series: Vengeance Road # 2
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / 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.

Retribution Rails, by author Erin Bowman, is the companion novel to Vengeance Road. Retribution Rails is a young adult western with historical aspects that features a train robbery, shoot outs, chases, and plenty of drama. The story takes place 10 years after the ending of Vengeance Road. It features two new characters in 18-year old Reece Murphy, and 16-year old Charlotte Vaughn. For the past 3 years, Reece has a virtual prisoner of the Rose Riders. 

He even has a nickname, the Rose Kid that folks in the West have given to him due to his association with said gang. 3 years ago Reese witnessed the shocking murder of the family who had taken him in and treated him as though he were family. In large part because of a coin that was given to him 3 years ago by a gunslinger, Reece is still alive and not dead like the family. But, because of that coin, Luther Rose, brother of Waylan Rose who we met in the first installment, is now searching for the gunslinger who gave Reese the coin.

Reese has only one agenda; find said gunslinger so that he can finally gain his freedom from Luther & his Rose Gang and get on with living his own life for once. Meanwhile, Charlotte is chasing a story a week after her father died. Against the wishes of her mother and her uncle, Charlotte has chosen to attempt to become the next Nelly Bly. In case you weren't aware, Nellie Bly was a real American journalist who was widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days. Instead of getting her big break, Charlotte encounters the Rose Gang & Reese on the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Instead of a story about trains, Charlotte becomes part of an even bigger story. A story that will lead Charlotte to meet Kate Thompson, who is now married to Jason Colton, as well as trying to understand who Reese really is. This is a story that alternates narratives between Reece and Charlotte. It is a story that encompasses a much more modern Arizona than we saw in the previous installment. Trains play much more of a story than the previous installment and that goes toward historical accuracy that trains became the thing that people couldn't avoid. 

Bowman once again doesn't hold back when it comes to sexism, racism, bigotry, and the atrocities that were committed in the western territories like Arizona. I do appreciate that asset of her writing. If you think Kate and Jesse are just tertiary characters this time around, you'd be 100 percent wrong. I think it was a brilliant move on Bowman's part to revisit Kate and Jesse and see what they've been up to the past 10 years. Without spoiling anything, one could say they have been waiting for their past to catch up to them, and once Reese and Charlotte enter their lives, they end up being a larger part of what eventually happens, and how the story plays out. 

I loved seeing Kate again, and Jesse as well. I loved how much they haven't fallen out of love, but love has strengthened their bond. Kate hasn't changed much in 10 years except for one tiny aspect which I won't spoil. She's still a badass. She still watches her back. She's ready for whatever comes for her and Jesse. I loved Charlotte. I loved how she wasn't a mild manner reporter who ran away at the first sign of trouble but chased after it and stood her ground when trouble tried to make a mockery of her life as well as her mothers. 

There really isn't any romance of to mention between Charlotte and Reese. There is too much between the characters which takes a long time before they can even trust each other with their own safety. Reese is a character who is carrying a whole lot of baggage from what he's seen and done the past 3 years. He doesn't believe in redemption. He doesn't believe he can be saved by anyone. You will benefit from reading Vengeance Road first before you get to this book. There is quite a bit of background information that has everything to do with why Kate and Jesse are living where they are and why they are looking over their shoulders ready to bolt in a moments notice. 

There’s a nice stretch of rail between Painted Rock and Gila Bend, and that’s where we’ll take the train.
Diaz and Hobbs are hunched over the track, sweating and cursing beneath the Territory’s winter sun as they work to uproot another spike. Hobbs is yapping advice in a tone that’s earning him rude gestures from Diaz. Besides their banter and the clank of tools hitting metal, the morning’s silence is damn near deafening. No cactus wrens singing. No breeze. Not even the far-off whistle of the train we know’s coming.
A robbery ain’t how I envisioned spending my eighteenth birthday, but after three years riding with this crew, I’ve learned to expect nothing and be ready for anything.
Boss checks his pocket watch and tucks it away without comment. Means we’re still on schedule. For now.
“Well, Murphy?”
“Nothing yet, Boss.”
I been sitting in the saddle ’longside him all morning, checking the horizon with his binoculars. The train’s due in Gila Bend at quarter past twelve, meaning it should be chugging our way ’round high noon. We heard it’s carrying a mountain of money to a bank in Tucson. Payroll, plus general funds being transferred. Has something to do with the approaching new year. Exact details don’t matter to us. Boss’s got an informant, and his info ain’t steered us wrong, save for one skirmish a few months back, so when we hear money’s on the move and can be lining our pockets before the sun sets—?three days, even, before the calendar reads 1887—?we follow the lead.
“How ’bout Crawford?”
I turn my attention east. The Gila carves through the parched Arizona soil in the distance, but on a slight rise before its banks, a mass of cattle’re grazing. The rest of our boys—?Crawford, Barrera, DeSoto, and Jones—?are out there among the beef. The herd belongs to some rancher, but when the train breaks the horizon, Crawford and the others’ll get ’em moving, coaxing ’em this way till they’re stampeding for the tracks. If’n things go smooth, the rail Hobbs and Diaz are wrestling with won’t matter. Conductor’ll see the herd and shout for the brake. Then we’ll step onto the cars as the dust settles, taking ’em by surprise. But if the herd don’t cooperate or their timing ain’t agreeable, a busted track ain’t the worst way to stop a train. We done it before.
“He’s still getting in place,” I say. The hillside ain’t speckled with nothing but tan hides and dull-green shrub, and Crawford’s supposed to turn his jacket out when he’s ready. It’s got a red lining.
“Lemme have a look,” Boss says, reaching.
I surrender the binoculars and watch as he observes the herd. His brows’re pulled down tight, his expression stern and focused. It ain’t a rare look. I think I only caught him laughing twice in the three years I been forced to ride with him.
“Were I wrong?” I ask after he hands the binoculars back.
“Nah. Didn’t think you would be, but a boss’s gotta check or he ain’t much of a boss.”
My chest puffs up a little, then deflates from the shame. I ain’t sure how it’s possible to admire and despise someone in the same breath, but that’s how it is for me with Luther Rose. I can’t forget the scar he put on my forearm—?the half-finished rose brand of pink, puckered skin—?or what his men did to the Lloyds that day they dragged me into their crew. Or the waste Boss lays at his feet day in and day out, never seeming to feel an ounce of remorse or guilt. None of the Rose Riders seem to. And yet, this is my life now. This is how I gotta live. I’m here ’cus I got something Boss wants, and I’m gonna be his prisoner till he gets it. Surviving is easier if I pretend I’m one of ’em.
And if I make Boss happy in the process.
Luther Rose runs a tight outfit, after all, as savage and unforgiving as his half brother, Waylan. Back when he were still alive, the gang hit the stagelines, not the rails, and local folk didn’t even know Waylan had a sibling. It were a secret within the gang. Waylan never wanted his kin to be a target, and since they had different mas and didn’t bear a striking resemblance, he had Luther act like any old member of the crew. It was only after his passing that Luther made his true relation to the late Boss known. It helped strike fear. Now people quake at the mention of Luther Rose just as much as they did when hearing of Waylan a decade earlier. The gang’s as feared as ever.
Hell, I was scared of ’em as a kid growing up with the drunk I called a father in Ehrenberg, and I was downright terrified when they rode into my life three years back. Most days, I’m still on edge. The trick is, I try not to show it. You display yer weaknesses ’round these type of men and they’ll eat you alive.
The shriek of an engine whistle shatters the afternoon quiet.
“Soon now, Murphy,” Boss says to me. A plume of dark smoke puffs ’long the horizon. “Soon.”
I check for Crawford and find a swatch of red, hear the gunshots popping next. The herd starts lumbering.
Diaz has finally pulled the last spike, and now him and Hobbs are wrestling with the rail, yanking it so it don’t line up with one farther down the track. Soon as it’s free, they circle back on their horses, pulling up behind me and Boss.
The stampede comes on, our boys riding ’long the outskirts to keep the cattle confined and on target. My mare, Girl, is already getting spooked. She ain’t never liked trains, and she twitches beneath me. I squeeze her tight with my thighs, trying to assure her all’s well, but if I had it my way, I’d clear out a little, let the beef run their course, and swoop in when the train brakes for the animals. But Boss is sitting proud in his saddle, unfazed and barely blinking, so I try to do the same.
The engine’s bearing down on us like a bullet come outta the barrel, a blot of black on the horizon that flies straight and true. It ain’t slowing, but neither are the cattle. Crawford and his men draw rein on the north side of the rails, letting the herd lumber on. Dust billows ’round the beef.
Beyond the dirt cloud, the train keeps blowing its whistle.
“Boss?” Diaz warns at a shout.
But Boss just holds up a hand.
Right when I’m certain this is the time a train’ll derail and go flying, the brakeman applies the brakes. The clamped-down wheels screech and scream, running over the rail. The shrill cry is like a pickaxe to my skull, the worst kind of headache. I got my bandanna up over my mouth and nose to protect from the dust, and I can still smell the metallic tang of the hot steel, the engine’s coal steam.
For a good half minute our world is nothing but dust and heat and screaming brakes. Sparks fly. With one final exhale from the engine, the train goes still. The herd continues south, taking the dust with ’em.
I fan dirt from my eyes.
The dark outline of the train engine sits a few yards ahead, air rippling ’round it. It’s a giant of a locomotive, a towering black behemoth that came to a stop just yards from our busted bit of rail.
A figure leans out from between cars, flapping a pale kerchief so he can see if the herd’s cleared out.
Boss draws his pistol.
The poor bastard don’t even have a chance to yell out a warning. The moment his eyes find us, going wide and fearful, Boss pulls his trigger. The man’s head snaps back, and he topples from the train, landing beside the track.
“Let’s move!” Boss orders.
We draw our pistols, tip our hats low so all you can see easy between the brims and bandannas is our eyes. And then we’re storming the train.

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