Series: Dust Lands #1
Published by Marion Lloyd on February 1st, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
In the Dustlands, you fight or you die.
There are no laws in Saba's world. When her twin brother is stolen, she pursues his captors through a wild, wasted land. She must become a warrior to survive. On this dangerous road she can trust no one. Not even the handsome thief who saves her life – and steals her heart.
Praised as a "Shot of pure adrenalin" by The Times, this debut novel will knock the wind out of your lungs.
Blood Red Road whispers sweet promises of blood, gore, and an action-packed journey on the roads of the Dustlands. This charmingly narrated dystopian will steal your hearts with a lawless world, a dark and gritty plot, sibling relationships, and lots of girl power.
The first thing you should know about Blood Red Road is that it has a unique format and language which certainly isn’t for everyone. The writing style mixes a a heavy accent, which reminded me of a Western movie, with the absence of dialogue tags. Hence, the format takes a while to get used to. The heavy Cowboy lilt in the narration didn’t prevent me from enjoying this book from page 1, though. The second thing you should know is that the storyline consists of a journey for the most part. If you prefer static settings, this book might not be for you.
The world-building combines a post-apocalyptic setting with a touch of Wild Wild West and fantastical elements, and if you’re hesitant about journeys but not totally repelled by the idea of following a group of characters on the road: There’s tons of action to distract you from the journey part. And when I say action, I mean cage fights (yes, like in Gladiator), arson, ambushes on government officials, and battles against giant killer worms. Seriously, these characters aren’t spared at all, continuously fighting for their lives. Moira Young doesn’t shy away from clean-shaved heads on girls and ugly battle scars.
Saba is one of my favourite dystopian heroines, as she has the perfect balance between strengths and flaws. She’s a spitfire who’s a little hard around the edges. Saba’s stubborn, selfish, and a little mean sometimes. At heart, she’s a fighter who’s loyal to her family to a fault. Family is, in fact, a huge topic in Blood Red Road. The sibling dynamics in this book are ambiguous, as Saba’s feelings for her brother and sister sway between utter adoration and resentment. It also thematised favouring one sibling over the other. I loved this aspect fo the book since reality between siblings isn’t always peachy. As a necessity to any good book, there is a lot of development in the characters as well as the sibling relationships. Another important theme is girl power. The Free Hawks, a group of female revolutionaries, are the personification of badass girl power. Looking for damsels in distress? Seek elsewhere. And then there’s Jack, one of my first fictional crushes ever. This dazzling thief and rogue presents a challenge for Saba with his handsome looks, his charisma, and his deliberate provocations. If you know anything about what I go for in men (I can hear Chantal laughing at this point), you’ll know why I adore this precious magnet of mischief. His humour and happy-go-lucky nature clashes hard with Saba’s stern personality. See those sparks flying right there? That’s Saba and Jack engaging in their hilarious, witty banter.
The plot is action-packed with a constant atmosphere of doom and danger hanging over the characters. Needless to say, there’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat, escapes, pursuits, battles, and heists. Regarding the romantic subplot, I feel like I don’t need to elaborate how much I enjoyed this personal storyline of Saba and Jack. I am a complete and utter sucker for hate-turns-love relationships, that will be all. The characters and the plot are Blood Red Road‘s strong points, whereas its weakest point is probably the antagonistic force. The monarch, his right hand, and his little minions weren’t complex enough. Although Demalo, the right hand, definitely shows signs of a morally grey characterization, the antagonist isn’t present enough in this first instalment.
Also, before I close with another praise of this book, let me mention one last protagonist I haven’t talked about at all so far. Nero, the cheeky crow Saba keeps as a pet, is without a doubt the most adoring animal sidekick of all times. You cannot believe the kind of infatuation with crows this book has evoked from me. Though his almost human-like display is probably not realistic for a real bird, I loved the interactions between Saba and Nero. She may not be able to show affection for humans that easily but she’s plenty capable with this lovable crow.
Overall, Blood Red Road excites with a strong heroine, ambiguous sibling dynamics, an action-packed plot, and a sizzling romance. The enjoyment of this dystopian adventure heavily depends on whether you can arrange yourself with the somewhat weird format and writing. I consider Blood Red Road one of my favourite dystopians, though it has been years since I read it, merely because the atmosphere is so unique. If you enjoyed the more recently published Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, I think you’ll adore Blood Red Road, too.