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Saturday, January 09, 2016

"Real" Lost Dutchman's Mine Legend Comes to Colorful Life in YA Western

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 18-year-old Kate Thompson returns to her Prescott homestead one day to find her father's dead body swinging from a tree, she's horrified.  And outraged.  Clearly, this is the work of The Rose Riders, a notorious gang of outlaws.  Kate knows exactly what they were after, too.  Her father possessed a mysterious diary that supposedly contained directions to The Lost Dutchman, a mine full of treasure hidden at the base of the Superstition Springs Mountains.  Kate's Pa always said gold made monsters of men.  As she sets off in pursuit of The Rose Riders, it's not greed propelling her, but an unquenchable thirst for revenge.

Disguising herself as a boy, Kate does exactly what Pa told her to do in case of emergency—she heads to the ranch of his friends, the Coltons.  There, she receives a letter in which her father strongly cautions her against taking any kind of action against the Roses.  Ignoring the advice, she sets off in pursuit.  Only now she has brothers Jesse and Will Colton riding in her wake.  Try as she might, she can't shake the boys, not in their perceived duty toward her or in their lust for gold.  Reluctant companions, the trio rides on.

As they cross over 100 miles of Arizona Territory desert, the group faces dangers of every kind, not just from the relentless heat and ever present dust, but from snorting javelina and wildlife of the most dangerous sort—the human sort.  Unwilling to trust anyone, Kate does what she has to do, even when she has to use her gun to do it.  As she comes ever closer to a face-off with the men who killed her father, she will have to make a choice between justice and mercy, revenge at any cost or the safety of those she's come to love.  With family mysteries unfolding before her, Kate's seeing more clearly than ever before.  But will that stop her from avenging her father or will it push her even harder toward her goal?  

I've read a few YA westerns lately and, let me tell you, I'm digging this trend toward exciting, old-fashioned yarns.  It's refreshing.  I appreciate the break from the usual vampires, demon hunters, high school love triangles, etc.  Especially enjoyable is Vengeance Road, the newest from Erin Bowman.  Featuring a tough, sharp-shooting heroine, it's a gritty tale of survival set against a punishing desert background.  The characters are sympathetic while remaining authentic in their actions and desires.  Plot-wise, the story gallops along at a steady pace, offering surprising twists around every cactus.  It's an engrossing, well-told tale that delivers a compelling, action-packed story as well as an important message about the too-high price of greed. 

A fun sidenote:  Bowman didn't make up the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Mine.  It's one with which most Arizonans are familiar.  The hidden mine has never been found and treasure seekers are still drawn to the Superstitions and the gold that may—or may not—be hidden somewhere in the 160,000 acres of desert that surround the mountain range.  So, guess who may—or may not—have sparkling caches of gold sitting practically in her backyard?  Yours Truly!  If you're ever in my 'hood, be sure to visit the Superstition Mountain Museum, which is dedicated to collecting and preserving artifacts related to the colorful history of this area.  It's only a few miles from my house, but I've never taken the time to visit.  Reading Vengeance Road definitely fired up my imagination and piqued my interest in learning more about the fact, folklore and plain ole fiction surrounding the desert where I live.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee and the movie True Grit  [which is based on the book by Charles Portis, which I have yet to read])

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, sexual innuendo, and mild (not graphic) sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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Reading

<i>Reading</i>
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

Listening

<i>Listening</i>
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain



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