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Blood and Silver By Vali Benson (ARC) - Review

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I received an ecopy from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review.
What is a twelve year old girl to do when she finds herself in the silver boom town of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1880, and her only home is a brothel and her only parent is a drug-addicted mother? If she is Carissa Beaumont, she outsmarts the evil madam and figures a way out. After tricking the madam, Miss Lucille, into summoning a doctor for her mother, Lisette, she discovers that Miss Lucille has been drugging her. She and the kind doctor make a plan to try to save Lisette by dosing her down on the drug. Doctor Henderson tells Carissa that the only source for the drug is a Chinese immigrant named China Mary, who lives in Hoptown, at the other end of Tombstone. Carissa has no choice but to go to the powerful woman for help. Many say that China Mary is the one who really controls Tombstone. China Mary admires Carissa's brave spirit, and uses her influence to get her a job at the new Grand Hotel, which will free Carissa from her many duties at Miss Lucille's. She will work along with Mary's twelve year old niece, Mai-Lin. The two girls become fast friends. Then, disaster strikes, and the two girls must work together to stay alive. With a host of colorful characters and meticulous attention to period detail, Blood and Silver is a story of the best and worst of human nature, the passion for survival and the beauty of true friendship.
Blood and Silver by Vali Benson is a fascinating YA western historical fiction novel. I don't often read westerns, but I am glad I decided to give this a chance thanks to Reedsy Discovery. I wasn't familiar with the author or the novel going in, but it ended up being such a pleasant surprise. It's a short and quick read, but the characterizations, the setting, and the world-building really make this novel stand out from the crowd.

Carissa, our MC, is now one of my favorite young adult leading characters and she is only twelve years old. Usually, I would say that with such a young character at the helm that would place this in the middle grade category instead. However, the heavier subject matter and Carissa's life experiences certainly place the book in the young adult category. She has a lot on her plate with her mother, her mother's health, and the brothel where her mother is employed. Her mother's well being is always at the forefront of her mind. When Carissa learns that the brothel's abusive Madam has been drugging her mother, Carissa is willing to do whatever takes to help her mother recover and get well again. She's quite a brave girl and her journey over the course of the story is very inspiring. I do wonder though how well a reader from the YA target audience would would take such a young main character. Anyway, as admirable as I found Carissa, I would say the most intriguing character of the story is easily China Mary. I had no idea that she was a real person in historic Tombstone, Arizona. She was a well-respected and shrewd businesswoman at the top of the Chinese community in Tombstone. I would love to learn more about her life.

Overall, Vali Benson's Blood and Silver is well worth your time if you enjoy standalone historical fiction with characters that walk right off the page and a setting of a real Old West town that's practically a character in its own right. I'm looking forward to reading more from Benson in the future. Thanks again to Reedsy Discovery for the opportunity and introduction.


My review is also on Reedsy Discovery and Goodreads.

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