Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
I am a total dystopian, post-apocalyptic, apocalyptic, everything going to shit, junkie. I don't know what it is about this genre that I'm so crazy about, but it's there and it's a thing and I'm damn near obsessed with it.
Blood Red Road is getting a ton of crazy good reviews and, from what I understand, it's already been picked up by Ridley Scott to be made into a movie. And you know what? I completely understand why.
There are effing boats that travel on land. There is cage-fighting. I'm going to repeat that one more time for the folks in the nose bleed seats. THERE IS CAGE-FIGHTING. GIRL CAGE FIGHTING. GIRLS KICKING THE HELL OUT OF EACH OTHER IN A CAGE. There is a prison break. There is not only a prison break but there is a massive prison break and shit gets all kinds of real during it. There is an all girl group of raiders known as the Free Hawks who basically wrote the book on badassery. There are GIANT MAN EATING CAVE WORMS. Also, there's a ruler who reminded me so much of Xerxes for no real reason that I can pinpoint. Did I mention GIANT MAN EATING CAVE WORMS? Because this needs to be said. GIANT. MAN EATING. CAVE WORMS. Yeah. That happens.
The story is told from the POV of Saba and she is a hell of a girl. She's loyal and brave and tough as shit and innovative but she's by no means perfect. She's stubborn. She has a one-track mind. Her life basically revolves around one thing and one thing only, her twin brother, Lugh. So when Lugh gets taken by some freaky dudes riding in the wake of a dust storm, Saba does the only thing logical: she sets the hell off after him, little sister Emmi in tow. The relationship between Emmi and Saba is a rough one, it's hard to witness. On some level, you understand Saba's feelings for the little girl, but on the other hand, you just want to shake the hell out of her and scream, "GET IT TOGETHER. SHE'S A CHILD. SHE CAN'T HELP THAT YOUR MOTHER DIED." But, still, even feeling as she does, Saba takes care of her. Sure, she tries to dump her off with other people a few times, but even then, it's in the spirit of taking care of the girl. Mostly. Emmi, bless, just isn't that hard to shake though.
Jack, the Love Interest, is a fucking dreamboat. Okay. Not really. He is pretty prickly at times and super mysterious, but he is just as much of a badass as Saba and the gentleness in which he treats Emmi was all kinds of endearing. I adored the way Jack and Saba came together, slowly and painfully and with massive amounts of fumbling, but it's so perfect. Here is a girl who has spent her entire life isolated, with only her family for company. She doesn't know how to do the attraction thing. She doesn't get connecting to another human, aside from her brother. Watching her figure it out was a thing of beauty and added to the story, rather than take away from it. At no point does the story shift from this adventure, this quest, to Saba just mooning over Jack for pages upon pages. They figure it out as they go while focusing on the task at hand. Hell yes. Good on you, Young. Good on you for creating characters capable of effing multitasking.
All that being said, however, the beginning is rough to get into. Saba's voice is different. Think Ellie Mae Clampett and a disregard for most punctuation.
Jack nudges our pile of clothes with his foot. Grins. Well, ain't this an innerestin sitchation? he says. Two girls naked in the water an me with all their clothes.
See what I mean? It's a little off-putting in the beginning, but you quickly learn to just roll with it. In fact, by the time I got about halfway in, I kept thinking how it was actually perfect. It gives you a feel for this girl who grew up surrounded by a wasteland better than any description ever would, not to mention, her voice definitely sets her apart from any other protagonist in the genre. Saba's a girl worth remembering, basically, and she makes sure you know it.
Rebel Heart, the sequel, is due out in October. However, after reading through some of the news for the book and a few things that have leaked, I'm pretty sure I'm going to stop my Dust Lands journey right here. There's talks of one of my most hated YA cliches being involved and with Blood Red Road being so effing original, I just can't bring myself to witness it climb up on the same old tired pony so many other series have rode and take it around the track a few times. I will remember it for the glorious adventure it was, with a girl who hung out with a bird, went through hell for her brother, and fought in cages and talked like a Beverly Hillbilly.