Book Review: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

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Publisher: Balzar + Bray/Harper Collins
Published: 2 February 2016
Word Count: 384 pages
Format: E-book
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Indie Bound,

Synopsis

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

(via GoodReads)

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Disclaimer: Per FTC guidelines, I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publishers via Edelweiss. I am not being paid for this review. 

Revenge and the Wild ticks off all sorts of boxes in the “things Emily loves in books” category, including cannibals, steampunk elements, tough broads with one flesh arm and one mechanical arm, western environment, lawlessness, and magic. I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this novel. Is it mind-blowingly amazing? No. Is it a fun way to pass your time, with some great characters and a great city? Yes.

The best part of this novel, for me, was Westie. She’s a great lead character who reminded me a lot of Jane from Deadwood. I loved how crass and unforgiving she was about her behavior. And I appreciated the fact that the author gave her realistic flaws for her situation (i.e. she’s a bit of a drunkard because, you know, her family was eaten by cannibals). She’s not perfect, and she doesn’t necessarily apologize for it, but she does try to amend her ways for the people she cares about as the novel goes on.

I also really enjoyed her relationship with the Native American woman who had found her after she’d escaped from the cannibals, and became one of her friends. I thought that Modesto handled the Native culture well, in a way similar to Mike Resnick’s Weird West Tales (featuring Doc Holliday).   I wish we had gotten a bit more of the backstory on the tribe and their culture, because I found it a great element to the story that could have been explored me.

That leads me into my biggest problem with the novel: there’s just too much going on. Modesto had a lot of great elements in the book, but because there was so much going on, none of them got fully developed. It had western elements, steampunk elements, urban fantasy elements, revenge elements, and romance elements. There wasn’t enough time to explain the culture and background of the story. I didn’t believe that every male character who came across Westie would love her, and I don’t know if I necessarily cared about the main romance in the novel. It seemed like Westie should have had a bit more on her mind than the romance. If Modesto had picked just a couple of the many elements she had and expanded on them, it would have been a stronger novel. So, while it was entertaining, it did lack a certain amount of depth and complexity.

I enjoyed the writing, and I thought some of the dialogue was witty and clever, but not all of it. Some moments fell a bit flat.

All in all, the book delivered on some great cannibal moments, and it had a fairly strong lead. It’s also a standalone, which is basically unheard of in the YA world at the current moment, so thank you, Michelle Modesto. I greatly, greatly appreciate it. If you’re interested in the book, definitely give it a go. [Also, it has a gorgeous cover, so good job, design people.]  And if you like it, I would definitely recommend Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.

If you’ve read the book, let me know what you think! And if you have some recommendations, send them along! I’m always looking for a fun Western.

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

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