Blood and Silver

Young Adult - General
105 Pages
Reviewed on 06/18/2020
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Author Biography

Vali grew up in the Midwest. She now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons and grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion of writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine before she decided to try her hand at fiction.

In April of 2020, Vali published her first novel, “Blood and Silver”. That same month, she was also made a member of the Western Writers of America.

In June of 2021, Blood and Silver won first place in two categories at the San Francisco Book Festival. The following month, Blood and Silver was named a Winner at the 2021 New York Book Festival. In August of 2021, the book took home top honors at the American Fiction Awards.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Blood and Silver is a work of fiction in the historical western and drama sub-genres and was penned by author Vali Benson. Written for young adult audiences, the work is accessible to all readers as it does not contain graphic content. The setting is Arizona, 1880, in a town where a young girl finds herself lacking in options when her drug-addled mother is unable to help her. Wise and plucky, twelve-year-old Carissa Beaumont hatches a plan to help her mother and escape the brothel in which she lives, but it involves making some unlikely friendships that may bring yet more danger that she was not anticipating.

Author Vali Benson has created an accessible and updated take on the western genre which can be enjoyed by young adult readers and nostalgic adults alike. At its center, the story takes on the bond of Carissa and Mai-Lin, an emotional arc that resonates strongly and is well developed in the narrative presentation and dialogue of the characters. Both girls are hardy and quick-witted for the era, which makes for an exciting and nail-biting adventure when they have to find ways to get out of trouble. All of this is set against a fiercely accurate historical backdrop, where it’s clear that Benson has put a lot of work into researching the way of life, the cultural and racial mix of people, and the grim realities of life in the old west. Overall, I would definitely recommend Blood and Silver as an enthralling historical read.

A. L. Peevey

In 1880, Carissa Beaumont is a twelve-year-old girl taking care of her opium-addicted mother, Lisette, in Blood and Silver by Vali Benson. Very savvy for her age, Carissa has made herself indispensable to Miss Lucille, an unscrupulous madam, while quietly keeping several steps ahead of her. Carissa and her mother go with Miss Lucille when she leaves San Francisco with her “best” girls, at the invitation of an old friend, and moves to the silver boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. There, with the encouragement of the sheriff and the help of the town doctor and China Mary, who controls the local opium trade, Carissa begins a quest to end her mother’s addiction and to escape Miss Lucille’s clutches. Despite the help of others, will Carissa’s plans succeed before it is too late?

The story in Blood and Silver by Vali Benson has been meticulously researched, so the frontier town of Tombstone comes to life. We can hear its clamor, smell its dusty streets, and touch the silver ore being mined there. The cast of characters is memorable, particularly China Mary, who rules her own part of town along with the opium trade. Benson also skillfully manages to intertwine such adult themes as prostitution and drug use without graphic details in this young adult novel. She also carefully introduces Lisette’s and some of the other characters’ backstories throughout the book, bringing these fictional people to life and adding to the richness of the story. We receive an entertaining story set in a historical, legendary place without leaving the comfort of home.

Rabia Tanveer

Blood and Silver by Vali Benson is set in the old west and filled with a smart heroine, a guilty madam, and a chance encounter with destiny. Carissa Beaumont lives in Tombstone, Arizona with her mother who “works” for Miss Lucille at her brothel. However, the evil woman has made her mother a drug addict and her a servant with the threat of child prostitution hanging over her head. Desperate to get her mother out of this hellhole, she gets in touch with a doctor. Doctor Henderson tells her that the only person who can help them is China Mary. But here is the thing, China Mary is not someone you can easily meet and you don’t want to cross her. Will Carissa find her in time to save her mother? Will China Mary help her?

Blood and Silver by Vali Benson is entertaining and heartbreaking. This is the kind of young adult fiction that needs to become more popular. Carissa is not your usual heroine of the genre. She is too young, too desperate, and stuck in a horrible situation. The author explained her situation incredibly well, she allowed readers to get familiar with Carissa and become invested in her progress. Her relationship with China Mary was beautiful. She acted like a mother to Carissa like hers never did. There is something to be said about reading a story from the perspective of a child. It hits different, it makes you feel different emotions and makes you feel desperate. We read the story at Carissa's pace and her speed. We experience her life as she tackles one problem at a time. This was an incredible story.

Deandra via goodreads

I'm a sucker for westerns and love a good, strong heroine, and this book has both. I was enamored with the way the story was told through the eyes of a child, not an adult who was able to make assumptions about peoples intentions, but a girl who took things at face-value and worked her problems out one-by-one as they evolved.

Pallavi Sareen

The one thing I absolutely adored about this book was that it brushes upon themes which are rarely written about in Young adult novels. Highly recommend.

Ben via Barnes & Noble

A great story that historical fiction readers and fans of the Old West will love.

Blue Reviews

Historical YA Fiction with strong protagonist

The multilayered plot of the book is enthralling which gradually grabs your attention and doesn't let go. Full of twists and turns, dark themes, action and adventure. The author knits a sharp and challenging story, keeping the readers at edge.
Set in 1880s, the world building is hypnotic, taking readers back in time to the Old West. The writing style of the author is engrossing, depicting the scenes vividly, allowing the readers to deeply engage with the story.
Benson's characterization is superlative with skillful development as she portrays a strong heroine as protagonist.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book with its strong characters, fast pacing and rich plot.
I would give this book 5 stars for the commendable characters and I would highly recommend it to readers of Historical Fiction.
Looking forward to future works of Vali Benson.

Emma Katherine for It’s a Novel Life

Blood and Silver is the epitome of YA westerns! Brawls and sheriffs and lawless scandals, oh my! Every page was more thrilling and edgy than the last, making for a ruthless climax. I simply could not set this book down - I read Blood and Silver in one sitting due to Benson's engaging writing style, the despicable and relatable characters, and common themes represented in new, fresh ways! The strong, female lead was an appreciated twist to westerns because it allows different obstacles to arise, such as prostitution, motherhood, and a debate about misogyny. Savvy business women aren't common to this time period, which is what makes the atmosphere so rich. Complimenting this, I can't not mention the accurate historical elements implanted into Blood and Silver. Benson is clearly passionate about her work, shown by the effort and research she put into the setting and world building. Normally, the setting is "just the location", but in Blood and Silver, the setting is part of what makes the story so rich and powerful. From the first page to the last, you will be immersed in the thick atmosphere of terror and adventure - I promise!

N.N. Light's Book Heaven

5+ stars for Blood and Silver by Vali Benson

What an incredible adventure this book is! A superb book for a teen to read from age 13 on, for sure. The story of Carissa is fraught with emotion, drama, suspense, intrigue, mystery, danger, and fun. Part a little girl, part super-girl for the work she can do and part Lara Croft - this girl is a heroine every reader can root for!
The action is fast-paced and keeps the reader excited. The historically accurate writing is impressive and really takes the reader back to the 1880's Tombstone. The accurate portrayal of race relations in the later 19th century is really well done. This was a story that, at first, I thought might be too real for younger YA readers, but I was wrong. This book is a great book for kids and adults alike. A terrific book that shows good things come to those who work really hard.
My Rating: 5+ stars

Gina Rae Mitchell

Blood and Silver by Vali Benson is a remarkable historical fiction story. I could not put it down! The story takes place in the early silver mining days of Tombstone, AZ.
If you are the type of reader to look for deeper meaning in a story, Blood and Silver shows the problems many women faced in this era. They had no rights whatsoever, and it wasn’t even against the law to beat a woman. Prejudice, poverty, gangs, and lawlessness also provide topics for discussion.
Blood and Silver is going on my list of great books I’ve read this year. I give it my highest recommendation.

Claire Procter

This book is set in 1880 at Tombstone, Arizona, one of the Wild West frontier towns. The period has been very well researched by the author and weaves in fact along with fiction.
A great historical YA adventure which has been well researched. This is Vali’s debut novel, so I certainly hope there will be more to come.