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 a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, 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. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. 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, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.
The author sets us down in the middle of this bleak, formidable world without much explanation as to how the world became this way. This isn't really an issue though, it adds another fascinating element to this unusual post apocalyptic tale. Throughout the book, there are glimpses of our own world; sky scrapers, binoculars, and other gadgets that are no longer relevant in this future society. There are brief mentions of these items belonging to "the wreckers" and I assume that refers to what would be our world as it is now. Honestly, I didn't much mind being left in the dark about what happened to put the world in this state. I was so caught up in the intensity of Saba's existence in this world and the many challenges she faced as she journeyed across this desolate and dangerous landscape to find her kidnapped brother Lugh.
It seems that I use the words dark and gritty often when describing a dystopian themed book. Blood Red Road literally felt gritty, with the frequent sand storms, all the fighting in the dirt, and infrequent bathing practices. Saba was certainly no damsel in distress. She was more than willing do dish out punishment of a physical sort to anyone who crossed her. She was more of a "punch you in the face now and ask questions later" kind of girl. Normally, when I don't like the main character, I lose patience with and interest in the book. However, in Blood Red Road, while I didn't always like Saba and she often irritated me with her immature and selfish nature, her voice was so compelling I couldn't stop reading. What she lacked in manners and empathy, she more than made up for in general kick assery. She did grow as a character throughout the story, and that is always something I enjoy in a book, watching a flawed character change gradually in the course of the challenges she's faced with.
There's a hint of romance between Saba and a guy she meets in her travels. I thought their budding relationship felt plausible and imperfect. I very much enjoyed watching them interact with one another. It felt more like a friendship spiced up by a mutual attraction. The relationship between Saba and her younger sister was also intriguing. While Saba was almost obsessed with finding her twin brother Lugh who she adored, she resented and despised her 9 year old little sister Emmi. And though I often wanted to feel sorry for Emmi, I was time and time again reminded that she was tougher than one might think, probably due to being raised in such a harsh environment. Emmi managed to be endearing while still showing an inner strength that is unusual for a child. I hope that in any sequels, there is a lot more of Emmi.
The villain was pretty weak and unconvincing, bordering on the absurd even. He wasn't believable at all as either a king or the "bad guy" which is probably what I liked least about this book. The fight against him and his even more outlandish parents was another of the weaker points. His mother was a much more impressive and disturbing character. I'm actually surprised by how much I truly enjoyed Blood Red Road considering that I thought the main character was largely unlikable and the villain was ineffective. But the writing and the plot were more than enough to keep me reading and continue to be thoroughly entertained.
The writing style was unusual but it made sense in the context of the story. The author chose to write in Saba's voice which was understandably uneducated and and rustic, lazy pronunciations and a good bit of slang. This took a bit of getting used to but it made the characters feel all the more genuine, I think. Once I got into the book, reading it became almost effortless as I became more fully invested in the story.
Ultimately, Blood Red Road, like its main character, had a few flaws that were annoying, but it was so rich with action and bravado that it was an all around win for me. There wasn't exactly a cliffhanger ending but there were certainly enough questions left unanswered to warrant a sequel. I would love to learn more about the world and how it got to be that way in any future books. I would recommend Blood Red Road to fans of dystopian themed books as well as to those who like a tough female character that is not afraid of a fight.