Monday, August 29, 2011

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

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"Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant dust storms.  That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother, Lugh, is around.  But when a monster sandstorm arrives bearing four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered.  Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on a quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her.  So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent.  Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, relentless action, and an epic love story."

I LOVE this book – so much so that when I unintentionally woke up at 4:30am on a Saturday morning I had no desire to go back to sleep.  This book is everywhere and I didn’t have the impulse to pick it up until I saw that James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner had recommended it.  I loved The Maze Runner and if Mr. Dashner says I should read it then I will.

Moira Young does a superb job immediately establishing the tone of the book.  And much like Dashner, the language and grammar of the characters are unique to their world. It took me a few pages in to get accustomed to it and by then I was so engrossed in the story it felt so natural.  You’re not quite sure when or where exactly this takes place but it’s post-apocalyptic.  What happened is never discussed and is actually unimportant here. 

Eighteen year-old Saba is devoted to her twin brother, Lugh and they live in an area called Silverlake, a harsh, desolate place isolated from everyone.  They have only themselves, their father, their younger sister Emmi and Saba’s pet crow, Nero for company.  Lugh is Saba’s world.  She hangs on every word he says and resents anyone else taking away his attention from her, including their little sister.  He holds the family together as his father has been unstable since their mother died giving birth to Emmi.  They trudge through their day scrounging for scraps – metal, plastic - that have been left behind by the Wreckers, the lost civilization.  One day their ho-hum world gets thrown upside down when Lugh is kidnapped.  Saba vows to find him and bring him back and reunite the family.

Saba is a fierce heroine.  She's unpretentious and unapologetic.  While, it’s almost cringe-worthy to hear her admit some bitter flaws about herself, it’s also her unwavering loyalty and love for her brother that drives her to reunite her family.  Her search for Lugh takes her beyond Silverlake to a place called Hopetown.  If only it lived up to its name!  Having received undesirable attention on the way there, she gets captured and thrown into the violent world of cage fighting reminiscent of the gladiator fights in ancient Rome.  And Saba becomes the star attraction who is quickly dubbed the “Angel of Death”. 

While she’s trapped she uncovers a web of intrigue surrounding the town's inhabitants.  Having tunnel vision all along regarding her brother's rescue, she's surprised to learn how Lugh's kidnapping is connected to her current predicament.  She befriends a  group of young girl fighters known as the “Free Hawks” and together they hatch a plan for escape.

It’s so fascinating to read how Saba gradually grasps the concept of friendship. She’s reserved and has no interest in getting involved in other people’s quarrels; however, everyone she encounters along the way enlightens her.  Maev, as the leader of the Free Hawks becomes a kind of BFF.  She begins to understand that this is bigger than just her search for her brother; that her personal mission also carries the hopes of many people.

There is of course, a love interest in the form of Jack.  They meet as fellow fighters who escape together.  Jack is a much-needed comic relief that is a mix of Jace and Patch – good-looking, cocky, irritating and heroic. Despite the instant attraction between them, Saba never admits it nor does she allow that to distract her from her plans.  It was great fun to watch the two antagonize each other as their sexual tension steadily built.  And ladies, let me tell you there was even a dirty sexy cave scene that had me jumping!

By the end I felt as if I had been through this rough ordeal with Saba.  It could have been a thoroughly depressing read but Young added plenty of light-hearted moments by sprinkling some humorous interplay between the characters.  It was such a pleasure to watch Saba develop into a person who realizes that she has her own strength and ambition, independent of her brother.  At no time is it more apparent than when she has to fight for her life in the cages.  Her description of the adrenaline rush she gets - "red hot" as she calls it - are vivid.  And despite the violence she has to suffer through, she maintains her simple morals. 

Blood Red Road is the first in the Dustlands trilogy and apparently director Ridley Scott has already optioned the film rights.  Until that happens, I wait patiently to continue Saba's journey, especially since there were some minor characters introduced that I suspect will play a bigger role in the next book.  Moira Young is a gifted storyteller and I hope you’ll think so too!

~ Bel

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