On the road again with Bryan and Robert as they review… Blood Red Road by Moira Young!
Bryan’s quick summary:
Saba and Lugh are twins, but they couldn’t be more different. In the parched dry lands left after The Wreckers ruined it, the two eighteen year-olds scavenge for scarce food, eking out an existence to support Pa and their nine year-old sister, Emmi. Pa ain’t been too good since Ma died, starin at the skies and muttering about everythin all bein in the stars an all.
Unlike her slightly older brother (always first, then me behind), Saba is prickly and morose, often mean to Emmi. She dotes on Lugh though, and relies on his instinct and kindness to keep them all sane.
Until the Tonton arrive and kidnap Lugh, proclaiming him to be “the one, born at midsummer.”
Pa is killed in the kidnapping, and Saba is beside herself, angry and grieving all at once, and she resolves to pursue their attackers and free Lugh.
First she must ditch Emmi, who would only be a hindrance, and make her way across the dangerous Sandsea.
Emmi, of course, has other ideas … and so begins a pacey, twisting, dark tale of revenge.
Blood Red Road is by Moira Young
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Robert) This is a magnificent story, but the style and voice won’t suit everyone, and some younger YA readers might find it frustrating. The narration (Saba’s) imitates an old style wild-west voice, misspellins an all. There are no dialog tags at all, giving the reader a very stark impression. Don’t agree with the one-star reviewers that setting and plot is amateurish (it’s a classic Mad Max immature setting. Take it as that, and it’s fine.) According to Bryan, the audiobook handled this with far less irritation.
Yet it all works together in a fast-paced story of the heroine forced to confront herself – her own anger, mistrust and fears – with twists and dangerous turns at every stage.
2. (Robert) Each character is a superb mix of traits, and Saba herself is so real, you feel her frustration in every page. The setting feels tough and wild-west, and the lawless towns, gangs and feuds are a stark reminder of what a broken world of the future might look like.
Dystopian setting it might be, we’re never told why the world is as it is, nor what the Wreckers did to have it turn out this way. The only clues are occasional glimpses of rusted artifacts or dilapidated buildings or skylines.
3. (Robert) Saba’s fight scenes are tense and well scripted, and when her sudden “red hot” anger kicks in, she’s a real ninja!
She’s also determined to rescue Lugh (and there’s an impending deadline she cannot fail to meet – no spoiler!), and her single-mindedness gets her into trouble and shoves away would-be helpers: the stubbornness is strong in this one, Lugh.
The supporting cast are great fun – Nero (a crow), all the Wild Hawks, Maev, Epona, Ash, Ike, Tommo … and of course, Jack. No character is wasted, they all play their roles brilliantly.
There is a love story (kissing is all we see), but the story is quite scary and there’s plenty of violence, so 14 and up would be my recommendation.
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Robert) Where do I start? A novice writer would find it hard to create something like this story. It’s ambitious in its voice and in its choice of narration style – and no dialog quotes (AND first person present tense!). Not all readers will get along with it, yet those that do, will love it all the better for it. To see how this affected the reviews: read all the top reviews – almost all the “most helpful” reviews can’t stand the deliberate omission of dialog quotes, the wild-west misspellings and the awful (deliberate) grammar eg “would of.”
2. (Robert) The plot is sensational, the tight spots are breathtaking, the fight scenes amazing choreographed – there are no real gaps in this story.
This “band of misfits” must slowly come together and work as a team if they are to free Lugh, but even more dependent is Saba’s willingness to embrace help, ditch her stubbornness and save her anger for when it is most needed … and Young shows us this deftly – there is no “telling” in this book, which is masterful, given the choice to not use quote marks, as a fast reader might mistake this for passive action.
3. (Robert) I will reread this purely for the pleasure – and a refreshing change from the usual YA fodder – and definitely read on in the series. This particular Isolde resolves the arc perfectly and stands alone, but our intrepid group continue, with one key exception, leaving enough open loops to drag the read to the next in the series. Very well done.
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. A YA future dystopia with a wild-west frontier feel? Heck, yes! Why not?!
2. Saba is a great unlikeable heroine (we like her, but she’s a handful and keeps saying the wrong thing – similar to Puck in the Scorpio Races – her arc is fantastic.
3. Jack – the perfectly-named foil to Saba and I (Robert) deliberately haven’t mentioned him much in my review, mostly to avoid spoilers. He’s both an antagonist to Saba’s arc and another protagonist.
Prompt of the Week:
You reluctantly realize you must gather a band of misfits together, as you discover to your chagrin that you cannot achieve your goal alone. What characteristics must they possess in order for you to be successful, and what is it about these characteristics that presses ALL your buttons?