Title: Retribution Rails
Author: Erin Bowman
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint)
When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece's path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.
Retribution Rails is all about investigation and redemption, a story about two people willing to use each other to get free of terrible situations and the truths they discover along the way.
Reece was once lost but now part of a group. Which at least means safety, even if they are a gang of bandits and thieves. Murderers. Robbing trains and carriages, stealing. Taking in order to survive. Not the Reece necessarily wants to be there, but he has no choice. Not until he finds the man who gave him a strange gold coin. Then he'll be free. Then he'll be able to forget about all the things he's done, all the people he's hurt. But you can't run from the past.
Charlotte is intelligent and persistent. She'll stop at nothing to uncover the truth, to tell the story as it is. The truth is absolute, no matter who it'll hurt. Who she'll manipulate in order to get her story. Especially if she wants to survive a train robbery and an accidental kidnapping. Even if she stumbles across the best story she's ever heard. But there's the truth as it happened and the truth people want to believe, and sometimes the latter needs to be told instead of the former.
This definitely holds up as a companion to Vengeance Road, but I think you can read this without reading the first. Reading the first certainly provides some backstory to some somewhat important characters but not the main ones of Reece and Charlotte. They're like oil and water when they come together, ready to use each other in order to stay free or alive. The western setting is harsh and unforgiving, cold and painful, where consequences often lead to being on the wrong end of a gun barrel. This is very much a story about two people willing to do anything they can to be free f their circumstances, and the harsh reality that their actions have real consequences for both them and others they never meant to hurt. For readers who enjoyed the first book and readers looking for more western-set YA, I would suggest this.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)