Title: Revenge and the Wild
Author: Michelle Modesto
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)
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.
Revenge and the Wild is a tense search for answers and revenge in a dry, desolate, magic-filled setting. A look at trust and belief, and making the decision on whether or not to trust a gut feeling.
Westie is rough and bitter, as jagged as a piece of broken glass. She was let loose by her adoptive father Nigel, allowed to run wild as she grew up, making her rather 'unladylike.' She doesn't necessarily care. She's too busy searching out the missing pieces of her past, searching for the cannibals who killed her family. This search of hers, this hunt, drives her, pushes her. Haunts her. The attack on her, losing her arm, changed her. Thanks to Nigel, she grew up in a safe home, a home that helped her. But it doesn't mean she isn't still haunted by why she saw. What she smelled.
There's some intriguing world-building going on here. It's reminiscent of a historical western setting, what with the saloons and the brothels, the horses and the coaches. The slow encroachment of white people and industry onto Native lands. But then there's an extra layer of clockwork and steampunk-type machines, and a layer of the paranormal on top of that. Of vampires and werewolves and of magic in the land that's starting to disappear. It's a giant combination of genres but I found they all worked together. It didn't seem like too much was happening in terms of the setting.
I wonder when I'll stop being surprised when main characters in YA genre fiction aren't able-bodied, aren't straight, aren't white. Maybe when it happens more often. It was awesome to see Westie, a rough heroine, look to kick ass and take names in a magical Western setting with a mechanical arm. Losing it did shape her, change her, make her focused and ruthless, but the loss of her human arm and gain of her copper one didn't make her less of a person, even though some of the townsfolk see her that way. She was still hunting down cannibals, still searching out clues. Still getting into trouble. Still making mistakes. Still getting tunnelvision and not looking at a bigger picture. Just because she's not able-bodied doesn't mean she won't work as a main character. Hopefully we'll see more main characters with disabilities, physical and mental, in fantasy settings.
There were a number of plot lines circling through this book. Westie's search for revenge. The investors coming to town. The magic in the area slowly disappearing. Westie's own relationships with Nigel and Alistair. Because so much was going on, there was a time or two when I wondered why there were so many. I got a little caught up in so much going on and the excitement of having so many different things from genre fiction in one book. I would recommend this to those looking for a new fantasy standalone with a battered, gruff heroine.
(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)