Retribution Rails Review: Fun, If Forgettable, Western YA Adventure

October 24, 2017 by Aila J. | 3 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Retribution Rails Review: Fun, If Forgettable, Western YA AdventureRetribution Rails by Erin Bowman
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on November 7th 2017
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Romance, Action & Adventure
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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.

Note: This is the companion sequel to Vengeance Road, where you can find my review here. This review will not contain any spoilers.
Also: There is graphic violence and deaths in this book. Please be aware!

I really enjoyed Vengeance Road years ago and thought that the Western setting was refreshing and incredibly immersive. While Retribution Rails proved a fun sequel that led readers to another exhilarating adventure, the overall reaction I felt from it was “easily forgettable.” The read was very worth it, however, and I still recommend this quick and action-packed story to readers looking for a historical setting captured with vibrancy and brilliance. For something of a bit more substance and long-lasting impact, this book won’t provide it.

Told between the alternating first person perspectives of Reece, the Rose Kid, and Charlotte, an aspiring journalist, Retribution Rails takes place ten years after the ending of Vengeance Road. Familiar characters are seen as the main characters of the previous book make important cameos in this story. Although I enjoyed seeing how they were doing, my personal opinion is that they got a bit too involved with this story. In any case, reading Retribution Rails certainly acted as a nice extended epilogue for those particular characters. Reece is part of the Rose Riders, who are dangerous men on the run from the law (and will be familiar to readers of Vengeance Road). However, this was not by his choice. The leader of the Rose Riders, Boss, is looking for the gunslinger who killed his half-brother, the previous leader, and Reece’s memories holds the key to that path.

You display yer weakness ‘round these type of men and they’ll eat you alive.

It was really easy to sympathize with Reece, who is half-white and half-Mexican, as he follows a life that he doesn’t want. He’s had a tough upbringing, made even tougher by the simultaneously harsh yet loving lessons of Boss. I like how Bowman didn’t paint the Rose Riders as sympathetic, though. They are mean and harsh men through and through, and the author didn’t cut them any slack. However, she also adds a bit of feeling and dimension between the men’s interactions, which gave them more character. While robbing a train, Reece meets Charlotte, an aspiring journalist with plans of her own. They cross paths multiple times throughout the story until Charlotte is finally sucked in with Reece’s situation and the rest of the Rose Riders.

I really liked Charlotte’s character. She grows a lot in the book, as she figures out how to deal with problems by herself after failing to get the help of others. She’s independent, vivacious, and filled with writing energy. She has to deal with her antagonistic uncle trying to marry her mother in order to get the money from the investments her now-deceased father made. At first, she thinks that she can get someone else to deal with the problem. But by using her resources, she takes the reigns by herself and sorts out her own problems, making her a very nicely-written independent character. Add to that the fact that she’s working to become a journalist during a time when journalism was seen as a man’s job, and you get a hard-working and determined young woman looking to save her family.

If my career will not come waltzing to me, I will hunt it down myself. I will claim it for my own.

The character interactions were actually more in-depth than I expected, considering all the adventure and action going on. You don’t have to read Vengeance Road to understand the connections to this book, and the author does a good job in incorporating the previous book’s story elements very smoothly in this one. Charlotte and Reece are extremely apprehensive about each other in the beginning, and have this super slow development into trust and understanding throughout the entirety of the book. The romance – if you can even call it that – is extremely light, kind of like subtle sprinkles on a cupcake. I think this progression was also carefully done, because the development really fit the role the characters had and how they each grew as a person throughout the whole story. So I’d like to point out it’s there, but definitely put in the back seat for individual growth, plot progression, and action.

She challenged me, and I challenged her right in return, and maybe we’ve both grown from that.
How a person can change.


Although I didn’t have any qualms with Retribution Rails, I can’t help but note how forgettable it is. Maybe it’s because I read it extremely fast, but I do recommend it as an action-packed adventure set in the gritty, dusty wild West (and its developing industry at the time). The historical setting was really well-done, the characters easy to like, and plot as exciting as ever. However, the bottom line is that although I liked this book, it’s altogether too easily forgettable and didn’t make that much of a lasting impact for me. Like I said, I do recommend this book to other readers, but sparingly, as even though the adventure and fun is there, there just really isn’t a memorable thing to make this book quite stand out.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Thank you Netgalley and HMH Books for the review copy!

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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3 responses to “Retribution Rails Review: Fun, If Forgettable, Western YA Adventure

  1. Ali

    I really enjoyed this one, but I do agree that it was somewhat forgettable. But while reading it, it was definitely a fun, action-packed story and a perfect intro into western lit (I hadn’t read any before these two novels).

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