Title: Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1)
Author: Moira Young
Published: June 7th, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when four cloaked horsemen capture Lugh, Saba’s world is shattered, and she embarks on a quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the outside world, Saba discovers she is 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’s unrelenting search for Lugh stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
When I first read Blood Red Road in 2011, I thought it was one of the best books ever and I would’ve given it 10 stars if I could. So being the person I am, I decided to reread it and see if I was an idiot for loving it so much. It turns out I am not, in fact, an idiot. I mean, I have more opinions now, but I still really like Blood Red Road and I can’t wait to read the sequels.
The first thing that I noticed the moment I started reading was the dialect. With words being misspelled on purpose like ‘yer’ (your) and stummick (stomach), the absent letter ‘g’ and the lack of inverted commas that indicate speech, it’s so different from other books that I’ve read. In the beginning, I’d read a few lines before seeing ‘he/she says’ and realize that ‘Oh! That was meant to be a dialogue!’. It was jarring and took some getting used to but it didn’t take me long, and I ended up really appreciating the unique writing style.
Blood Red Road reminds me a little of Angelfall, where the main character sets off on a journey to find their sibling. In this book, Saba left her home to find her brother, Lugh who was captured. But despite it being her brother, her adventure, she doesn’t really propel the plot for most of the book and a lot of what happens is because of the things and people around her, and she’s just trying to make the best out of the situation. That being said, I still consider Saba a good heroine. She’s headstrong, stubborn and so prickly that sometimes I don’t even like her, especially when she’s being incredibly mean to her little sister, Emmi. But she’s also brave, selfless, and so loyal to her brother, which makes her strained relationship with Emmi really confusing. She does evolve throughout the book, growing into her character and finding who she really is without her brother. It’s very interesting because all her life, even almost toward the end of the book, she thinks she’s nothing without Lugh when the whole time she’s been doing so many things in his absence.
The rest of the characters are equally interesting, some more so than others. Emmi is really a mini Saba, which is probably why they don’t get along so well. But I like her as a part of the team and she adds the element of family which I don’t usually see in YA. Jack is another character I really like, adding some humor into an otherwise bleak situation. I wouldn’t call his relationship with Saba ‘insta-love’, they didn’t really get along that well in the beginning, but I wouldn’t call it ‘not insta-love’, either. But I enjoyed reading about them anyway. The Free Hawks are really great, too. They offer Saba a genuine friendship and gives her more meaningful relationships that help to build her character.
The worldbuilding is where it falls short for me. There is information scattered throughout the book, and I managed to piece together the backstory and what the world is like, but since Blood Red Road is told through Saba’s perspective, we can only know what she knows. And she doesn’t really care to know much. Being sheltered in Silverlake her entire life, Saba is uneducated and knows little of the world, so her only concern is finding her brother and not much else.
Overall, nothing really bothered me so much that it made me enjoy the book less, I still love this book. I think Blood Red Road is a great read and it set itself apart from other dystopian novels published at the time. It’s entertaining and action-packed, with great characters that come together to create a great story.
“There can be beauty anywhere. Even here. An if it ain’t there, you can make it yerself.”