I loved, loved, loved this book. It’s sort of like Star Wars mixed with The Hunger Games, mixed with The Wizard of Oz, mixed with a Clint Eastwood movie. Does any of that sound bad to you?
This was another book I got at the library, right when we got it in. It’s been on my Amazon recommendation lists way before it was even out. And I think everyone can tell I have a soft spot for YA dystopias with a strong female lead.
This book is about Saba, whose lived her whole life with her twin brother, little sister, and depressed father at a place called Silverlake. Silverlake has slowly been getting drier and drier over the years. There’s hardly any water or game for the very alone family to live on. And on the day her twin brother (Lugh) tells her they need to leave Silverlake, he gets kidnapped by four men on horseback, who seem to ride in with a sandstorm. The men kill their father, and take off with Lugh.
The book really begins with Saba’s quest to get her brother back. She keeps trying to leave her little sister behind in safe places, but Emmi never listens. She and Emmi track miles upon miles with little to no food or water. They follow the tracks left behind by the horsemen. They ride sandships, get kidnapped, and survive some really dark circumstances. Saba is captured and forced into something called cage fighting. She has to fight other girls in cages. And if she looses three times, she has goes to the gauntlet, to die. And if she doesn’t fight, her kidnappers will hurt, kill, or torture Emmi. Saba develops a nickname: the Angel of Death, because she never looses a single fight.
Eventually with the help of a large group of girl thieves and rebels, she escapes cage fighting, rescues her sister, and manages to let all of the men, women, and children free from their cages. However, she pisses off a very powerful king and his protectorate of strong bodyguards. She joins forces with the girl rebels, who want to change society for the better and get rid of the king. She also befriends bandits and a couple of past slaves who fall in love with her, one of which she falls for too. She survives fights, fires, and hellwurms. And for a girl who hates apologizing, hates asking for help, and loves to do everything all on her own, she has an enormous amount of help on her way to rescue her brother. And the final fight scenes are as mesmerizing as that last duel in a western movie.
There are so many things that made this story great. First and foremost, is Saba. She is kind of a snot, but you love her anyway. She’s rude, obnoxious, mean to her little sister, and she takes help and advice from no one. Yet, you can’t help loving her to pieces. She’s strong, stubborn, and willing to die for those she loves. And despite her grumpiness (which should not be mistaken for whininess that other YA heroines are known to have), she has a ligeance of followers everywhere she goes. Because everyone recognizes her for what she is: a powerful leader. She, however, still needs to figure this out. And this makes you love her even more.
Second, Moira Young has combined dystopia with western. The whole world sounds like it’s desert. And the land disputes, the drug problems, and the fights all make it such a unique book. She also keeps up a Western slang dialogue throughout the book. And at first my inner English major was prohibiting me from enjoying the story, but eventually I just got lost in the language –in a good way.
Third, the characters are just all so interesting. One of my only complaints would be that I want to know the others as well as I know Saba. Young keeps bringing in these amazing other ideas and characters, but in my opinion, doesn’t delve into them enough. But if anything, that just says her story is so good that I need more.
I’m not sure if this is a stand-alone, or the beginning of a trilogy. Sometimes stand-alones become trilogies…But, according to Goodreads, its called Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1), and I think that’s a good sign that there will be more. I hope there’s more. Though, the ending worked, and I don’t absolutely need a sequel; it could easily stand alone. I just wouldn’t complain for another shot to get to know the girl rebels, Lugh, Jack (the love interest), and many others. I give it a 10/10. It’s a tiny bit slow at first, especially with all the Western slang, but don’t put it down. It only gets better and better.