I was very excited to read this book because I love westerns, and this one has the added bonuses of cannibals, magic, and a mechanical hand. It was a steampunk western of sorts, and I mention that because the tone will appeal more to readers who appreciate both genres than readers who are simply looking for a western. It’s not quite Army of Darkness meets True Grit, but that is the comparison I just couldn’t quit making. While that sounds very cool, it just never really worked for me. I gave Revenge in the Wild three stars.
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.
This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.
Westie has a serious desire for revenge on the family of cannibals who took the lives of her family as well as her arm, and I just didn’t think the gravity of the situation paired well with the whimsy of the setting. The magical Indian maiden warrior and the mythical creatures, the airships and the clockwork mechanisms were at odds with Westie and her goals. I don’t think my feelings will be universal, and for the right reader, this will be a fun and phenomenal blend, but I personally found it hard to connect with the characters who never made the leap from characters to real people.
The plot does contain action, mystery, and romance, all of which are enhanced by the unexpected twists and turns of a world I haven’t seen before. It is a fully realized world, too, and one that is easy to envision and still surprising. The plot does give relationships time to evolve and develop, and it gives readers the opportunity to make inferences, so it isn’t overwrought with backstory. I found the romantic relationship rather endearing, and it is a complex situation with a universal appeal, so I think most readers will enjoy that subplot as well. The story does end with a satisfactory resolution that twisted right at the end to foil my best predictions, which is always a pleasure.
I do think most of my high school readers will struggle with the pairing of western and steampunk. The steampunk genre really hasn’t caught on with my students and that mix of whimsy and serious revenge will be hard for them to rectify in one work. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.