Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto
Balzer + Bra: February 2, 2016
Genre: Western; Steampunk
Source: Free From Publisher
Revenge and the Wild had a really awesome premise: girl tracks down the cannibals that ate her family. And, it’s also a Western for teens. I’ve been seeing a few Western style YA books out there recently (i.e Vengeance Road, Wake of Vultures etc.), but Revenge and the Wild is the first that I’ve read. There were elements of Revenge and the Wild that I liked, but as a whole I found that there was something lacking.
Westie is seventeen years old and as a child she lost her arm when cannibals attacked her family. Westie was the only survivor. Now as a young woman, Westie continues to search for these cannibals only to discover that they have actually come to her. Her guardian, Nigel, has invented a machine that will amplify the magic in the area, protecting the Native population that live near as well as the magical creatures that share the town with the humans. When a wealthy family comes to town to invest in Nigel’s machine, Westie recognizes them as the cannibals that killed her family. Of course, Nigel (and everyone else) is reluctant to believe that the folks with money are the bad guys, after all, they need the investment. But, Westie refuses to back down on her suspicions and when a few folks wind up dead, it goes a long way to convincing the naysayers.
Like I said, the premise is great. There was mystery and action. There was romance. Unfortunately, it didn’t come together in a way that made for a smooth read. There was a lot of stuff going on in Revenge and the Wild – too much stuff. Westie was investigating crimes, fending off the advances of a vampire, and then not fending off the advances, and also dealing with her long-standing devotion to Nigel’s other wade, Alistair. Then, there’s the whole problem with magic disappearing. There were so many plot points and I never felt that they came together in a way that fully captured my attention. For example, Westie’s love life. It was complicated. Alistair rejected her a couple of years ago and Westie could never figure out why, so now she has these confusing feelings for some hot-shot vampire in town. This whole issue was resolved way too quickly. And when Westie does settle on one of these guys, the romance just seemed so blah. There was no spark or real connection, and this was how I felt about the whole book. The elements to a story that was likely to appeal to me just didn’t have the life in it to fully capture my attention.
What I did like was the character of Westie herself. Westie has trouble with drinking, she’s not at all ladylike and isn’t afraid to let people know it. How often do you see a young woman struggling with drinking in YA? Rarely. And it was great how this issue was explored in a non-issue/preachy way. Westie was far from a perfect character. She was troubled by her family’s murders and had a hard time living up to Nigel’s expectations, and was sad and confused by Alistair’s rejection. I loved that Westie didn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t, yet remained vulnerable because of that very fact. The development of Westie’s character was fantastic, I only wish that the other characters in Revenge and the Wild were similarly developed.
So, my verdict for Revenge and the Wild: this one’s not for me. The romance is kind of boring and there was way too much happening in this one. I liked the Western setting and the rather crass Westie, but it didn’t quite make up for the overly busy plot.
For another heroine that struggles with addiction, try Patricia Elliot’s The Devil in the Corner. Maud struggles with an addiction to laudanum, which confuses the reliability of Maud’s narrative. If you’re a fan of Gothic storytelling, this one is for you.
If you liked the more adventurous element of Revenge and the Wild, as well as the character of Westie, you will like The Assassin’s Curse duology. Ananna is a pirate and when she accidentally activates a curse binding her to the assassin who tries to kill her, it’s adventure time.