Tag Archives: True Grit

True Grit meets The Road in Beth Lewis’ The Wolf Road

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True Grit meets The Road in Beth Lewis’ The Wolf Road

The comparison between The Wolf Road and True Grit meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road isn’t far from the mark.  I can easily imagine the Coen brothers adapting this horror of a western set in a post-apocalyptic version of a kill or be killed future. That means that readers will find the setting cinematic in its detail, the characters dynamic in their conflicts, and a story that is equal parts contemplative and bloody minded action.  I gave it five stars, and fellow reviewers on Goodreads are giving it high marks as well.  It doesn’t seem fair to give you a glimpse of this book and then tell you it doesn’t publish until Tuesday, July 5, but it is one that I can definitely say is worth the wait for fans of westerns and the end times.

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Goodreads Summary

True Grit meets The Road in this postapocalyptic psychological thriller–narrated by a young girl who has just learned that her adopted father may be a serial killer, and that she may be his next victim.

In the remote wilds of a ravaged land, Elka has been raised by a man who isn’t her father. Since finding her wandering in the woods when she was seven, he has taught her how to hunt, shoot, set snares and start fires–everything she needs to survive. All she knows of the world outside is gleaned from whispers of a cataclysmic event that turned the clock back on civilization by a hundred and fifty years and reduced governments and technology to shambles, leaving men at the mercy of the elements–and each other.

Everything changes when Elka learns that the man she has been calling father is harboring a terrible secret. Armed with nothing but her knife and her wiles, she decides to escape his clutches and sets out on a long journey to the frozen north in the hope of finding her long-lost parents.

But as the trail of blood and bodies grows in her path, Elka realizes that daddy won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she’s going to survive, she’ll have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about what he’s turned her into.

My Thoughts

Elka, the narrator is a strong and distinctive voice that is pitch perfect for the duality of her character.  She is both a no-nonsense, determined survivor and a victim seeking redemption and revenge, a mix that has always found favor in westerns.  She isn’t the only character that has a satisfying complexity, either.  Villains and allies have that blend of vulnerability and steel that make the population of this desperate world come alive.  While I found some lulls in the action, the time was used to develop surprising traits and revelations about the people I thought I knew, and I read them as eagerly as I read the bloody and violent battles for survival.  Frankly, I found it hard to put this book down, and I think others will as well.  Language and violence make this more of an adult novel than a YA, but the narrative perspective and the themes make for a story that will hit home with teens despite and perhaps because of the brutality inherent in the tale.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Revenge and the Wild

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Revenge and the Wild

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.

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Goodreads Summary

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.

My Thoughts

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.

Echo Could Kick Katniss Everdeen’s Butt

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Every year I show True Grit (2010) to my high school sophomores during our unit on the hero. It is a very popular activity. Charles Portis is from our state, and we are only an hour away from Fort Smith and Oklahoma where the story takes place, so it is a setting our students connect with. There is even an old man up on the mountain outside of our town named Rooster Cogburn, which I always have to explain is just a coincidence. They rarely believe me.
Every year, kids want to read the book and then they ask me what to read next. My answer? Ride the River by Louis L’Amour. It is the fifth in the Sacketts series, but it can absolutely stand alone. It has a strong, determined, and smart female protagonist, and she is a delight to read. She could take on Katniss Everdeen and win. This country girl can survive!

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Ride the River Louis L’Amour
Paperback, 192 pages Available in print and for Kindle
Published June 1st 1983 by Bantam

Goodreads Summary
In Ride the River, Louis L’Amour spins the tale of a young woman who has to protect her family fortune from a murderous thief and teach him what it means to be a Sackett. Sixteen-year-old Echo Sackett had never been far from her Tennessee home—until she made the long trek to Philadelphia to collect an inheritance. Echo could take care of herself as well as any Sackett man, but James White, a sharp city lawyer, figured that cheating the money from the young girl would be like taking candy from a baby. If he couldn’t hoodwink Echo out of the cash, he’d just steal it from her outright. And if she put up a fight? There were plenty of accidents that could happen to a country girl on her first trip to the big city.

What? You haven’t read True Grit?!

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