Published by: Margaret K McElderry, June 6 2011
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Format/pages: Hardcover 512 pages
Format read/Source: eGalley via Simon & Schuster
Date read: May 26 2011
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Blood Red Road is Moira Young’s debut and is the first book in the Dustlands series trilogy. This book has been getting a lot of buzz and in fact Ridley Scott recently picked up the movie rights. I found the story to be gripping and fast paced, and one of the best of the new crop of post-apocalyptic books.
18-year-old Saba grew up on a desolate, sandstorm plagued, dusty land known as Silverlake with her twin brother Lugh, younger sister Emmi and their father. One day, a huge sandstorm hits, and four horsemen arrive and kidnap her brother. As twins, Lugh and Saba have close ties and her brother means everything to her. Saba vows to rescue Lugh and sets off immediately on her dangerous mission. She does not have many clues to go on, and leaves with only her red-hot intense drive to find her brother.
Saba is out in the wilds on her own for the first time and faces treacherous conditions and predators on her journey. She finds herself literally fighting for her life, similar to Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Saba begins her quest with the single minded goal of finding her brother, but along the way gets caught up in a scheme with the band of rebel girls the Free Hawks to take control of an out of control society. She also meets up with handsome adventurer Jack, and tries to fight her intense feelings for him so she can stay focused on her mission.
Blood Red Road has a unique voice that sets it apart from other dystopian works. The first thing you’ll notice when you start reading is the first person narrative style used for the main character Saba. The written dialogue lacks quotation marks, and the words are spelled phonetically. This story telling device helps set the tone of the book and brings Saba’s voice alive. It does take a bit of getting used to, but after the initial distraction I grew to appreciate this stylistic choice.
As the protagonist, Saba is strong and fierce and riveting to follow. Her story is compelling because she is so focused on her goal to find her brother. She finds, though, that she is resourceful even without her brother and that others look to her as a leader. She is tough and can appear to be heartless at times, especially with regards to her treatment of her younger sister Emmi. Saba does show growth in this coming of age story and it’s gratifying to see the walls start to come down.
The pace of the book moved quicker for me in the second half. That’s when Saba starts to interact and build relationships with other characters. The supporting characters in this book are so colorful and inject a burst of energy in the story. The romantic interest Jack is charismatic and contrasts nicely with Saba. Emmy the younger sister is sweet, yet tough for her age. The Free Hawks are resourceful and help tell the revolution side of the story. Jack’s friend Ike is another like-able character and he and young Tommo round out the group nicely. There are some creepy villains as well of course to keep the tension level high.
The book has some fantasy elements in the story that remind me of the works of Maria V. Snyder and Kristin Cashore. There is a whiff of magical mystery surrounding Saba. For example, Saba has a pet crow named Nero that is very clever and human-like in his behavior. Saba also has a mysterious heart stone necklace that has a special gift. There are other unexplained magical instances in the story that perhaps will be addressed in the next book.
Blood Red Road has a fast pace, with plenty of action and a healthy dose of violence. The story has a unique voice, compelling story and characters that should appeal to fans of dystopian books such as The Hunger Games or Divergent. It is a great beginning to the trilogy, and I’m anxiously awaiting the next book.
Edited to add: The sequel has a title! Rebel Heart publishes Summer 2012.