Blood Red Road
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.
I was torn on a lot of this book and I feel very much on the outside because so many people I really respect love this book to absolute pieces. I guess I feel like I am missing something because this book didn’t click with me as it does with many others and so I recommend right off the bat to weigh my words with all the positive reviews given and give this book an honest shot. After all I did finish the book and it’s nearly 500 pages long! Also keep in mind I am reviewing the advance copy of the book which is about 50 pages longer than the final copy that went to press so perhaps much of what I didn’t like ended up on the cutting room floor.
So, Blood Red Road is a unique take on the dystopians that have swept the YA genre for the past several years. The book is written in a “poetically minimal” style which is to say the writing is largely spelled out phonetically in an American southern drawl and there are no quote marks to denote speaking versus action anywhere in the text. The phonetic spelling actually reminded me a lot of reading Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It had a way of bringing you into the world and seeing it more from the characters point of view just because you have a great understanding of the way they communicated and got their thoughts across. That part I loved. I’m being a total kill joy here but the lack of quote marks on the other hand was just frustrating and made reading it a bit of a slog, especially because I was trying to read parts of it aloud to my husband and it just proved frustrating for both of us without that marker showing where speech ends and action begins. I understand where the need for it stylistically came from, but I think the end result, for a 500 page book, was just overkill.
You don’t fool me, he says in a low voice.
Is that right?
Yea, he says. I see it in yer eyes. All you care about’s yer precious brother.
That aint true, I says.
If it’d been Emmi they took, he says, Emmi an not Lugh…would you of gone after her?
I take in a breath to say of course I would but the look on his face stops me. there ain’t no point in lyin when he already knows the truth.
He leaves go of me an steps back.
I thought so, he says. Yer sister’ll be safer with me than she could ever be with you. You jest ride along on yer high horse an leave her to me.
This is a difficult book though, it’s meant to be. It is a difficult story, about a difficult world, in a difficult period of history (well, future), with difficult characters. The main character, Saba, is a rough and tough girl who grew up in a desert next to a constantly shrinking lake. One day a sandstorm blows up and with it comes riders in black. They kill her father, her only surviving parent, and kidnap her brother. Saba must take her younger sister Emmi and find Lugh in a world gone mad from an apocalypse no one remembers and a drug nearly everyone seems to take. Saba is stubborn and fiercely loyal to her twin and incredibly brave. She is also almost cold and heartless and looks upon her little sister with a loathing I almost couldn’t stomach.
Saba must take off across the desert to find Lugh and on her quest we see more and more of the post-apocalyptic world. The thing is while some things were surprising and interestingly new, there is an all female fighting force the Free Hawks and Saba’s experiences fighting to the death in the cages, so much of it was predictable and a little too true to trope. I mean I am a fantasy/sci-fi nut, tropes normally doesn’t bother me and if there is a new and interesting spin on it I will swallow the book in gulps, I don’t care. But there were parts that were just so predictable and then they stayed predictable there wasn’t a twist. It was especially bad when the tropes had their predictable endings foreshadowed in the text. Like the freaky couple Saba and her sister met outside the city, and the deus ex-machina ending to the book.
There was also the really, really, really long beginning before the plot finally took off and the story started. I’m suspecting this is where a lot of the book got cut. It took 173 pages for me to get into this book and that is a very long time to wait to get interested in a story. Your mileage may vary, again, give this book a shot so many people must like it for a reason!
To get into some things I definitely loved about this book first off is Saba and the Free Hawks. I know I listed her as a hard character to like, and she is, but she also doesn’t need you to like her. She is a survivor. She is a fierce fighter, she is wily and smart when she needs to be, and is stubborn (which cuts both ways in her case). The Free Hawks are amazing and fierce and band together and fight for a good cause and what is there not to love in that? The women in this book are in a word awesome. They are everything a woman would be in a post apocalyptic world: fierce, brave, formidable, intelligent, loyal, strategic, they are just incredible and it was amazing to read about them and the havoc they wreck in a world run by a crazy man and his legions of drugged followers.
That’s not to say that all men are bad guys in this book because now we come to Jack. Can I be honest and say the guy came across as a bit of a creep to me? He was condescending, dickish, a bit of a know it all and smug as hell. But he also helped Saba to realize she was being a bit of a prick too, especially to Emmi and that was worthwhile to me. These characters realistically grow and change throughout the novel and that was another huge strong point in the novel’s favor.
But at the end of the day, when faced with the prospect of hunting down a final copy of the novel and reading it all over again, I realized this really isn’t the book for me. I wasn’t even interested in skimming it again. I was so relieved to be done with it. I also have no interest really in continuing with the series as I shrink at just thinking about reading another huge book with no quotation marks and a predictable plot.
Blood Red Road is a difficult book that takes place in a world where just surviving is hard and dangerous work, the characters are prickly and untrusting, and the land is arid and filled with the remnants of a society (ours) that has truly failed. It is a unique premise from every other dystopian YA book published recently and faces a world similar and yet very alien to our own. If that sounds interesting than give it a shot, don’t let me rain on this parade as my views are very much in the minority.
I received this book for free to review.