Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young 

By  Turn The Page

‘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.’

What can I say about this book. I bought it on a whim without knowing anything much about it (apart from one positive review I vaguely remembered reading a while back) – it reminded me of The Knife of Never Letting Go with a similar style of narration and the synopsis sounded great (cage fighting anyone!) so I picked it up. I’m so so glad I did as I think it’s been one of my favourite reads the past few weeks. I’ve seen a lot of people have bought a copy in this weeks IMMs so I thought I should get my review up!

Possibly my favourite aspect of Blood Red Road was Saba. Strong, independent heroines are hard to come by – yes I know lots of people describe the female protagonist this way when reviewing (I do it as well) but more often than not, there is always a love interest who becomes the only important thing in the heroines life, all she thinks about and the sole reason why she does anything. I find the infamous insta-love almost always undermines any independent qualities a character might have. I’m really glad to say that isn’t the case here. Saba is stubborn, fierce, determined and a fighter – long before any guy comes onto the scene. Even better – there’s a whole gang of women who live by their own rules, take on a corrupt society, protect those in need of it and generally kick butt. Could I love this book any more?!

Saba is a complex, even at times, unlikable character, but I loved her all the same. She has a rather narrow view of the world and as much as she adores her twin brother, she actively hates her little sister (who is a sweetheart). The trials Saba goes through change her and she matures a lot as a character by the end of it. We see her grow closer to her sister, whom she becomes responsible for; from being frustrated and angry (and often cruel) towards her, to grudgingly coming to care for her and, finally, being willing to lay down her life for her without a second thought. Blood Red Road is ultimately a journey of self discovery and Young has certainly given us a wonderful heroine to follow.

Of course there is some romance – but it doesn’t take precedence over the plot. Young certainly knows how to write some sizzling scenes between the two – and there is some great mounting tension and bickering going on – something that’s been missing from the YA books I have read recently. She doesn’t get bogged down in describing how attractive her characters are either, which I appreciate – I always prefer an author who allows the reader to decide for themselves how attractive they find a character, rather than beating us over the head how ‘hot’ they are. Jack, no doubt, is easy on the eyes, but it’s his actions, his flirting, and his loyalty to people that made me like him so much. He also calls Saba out more than once on the way she treats Emmi and on how ungrateful and rude she can be, which I loved.

Blood Red Road has a unique narrative style that fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the book. Young writes phonetically, disregarding speech marks, and instead uses with a basic, raw style that brings Saba’s voice (and character) to life. It perfectly reflects the harsh, barren world in which Saba lives and doesn’t pull you out of the story at all. If anything, I couldn’t get through it fast enough – so don’t be scared off by the unusual narrative – it truly makes the story.

The opening chapters are perhaps a little slow, but the story builds up nicely. There is plenty of action from the start, and I hooked by the second half of the book, whereby Saba begins to interact more with others. Young is particularly good at characterization and I don’t think there was one I didn’t connect with or wasn’t intrigued by. There are some delightfully twisted and repulsive villain’s in Blood Red Road, and I suspect some even more creepy and dangerous characters are looming in the second book. There’s also a loyal band of friends that emerges by the end that I hope we will see more of. Interestingly, we don’t see much of Lugh at all in this book, though there is something about him I just don’t like. I’m sensing something there and no doubt we’ll explore his character more in the following sequel.

Occasionally, Blood Red Road felt a little cliché (I could have done without the rather sappy heartstone) but overall this is an exciting, action-filled adventure. I personally enjoyed how Young doesn’t bother with any flowery descriptions but goes for blunt storytelling – it is refreshing and fast-paced. Best of all, Blood Red Road, despite being a series, doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, instead Young has set up some interesting story arcs and left several questions that will clearly lead into the next book, but leaves us completely satisfied with the conclusion of this one. I cannot wait to find out what happens next. I certainly hope we get to see a lot more of the Free Hawks (I would totally join their gang) and the raiders. And how cute was Nero!

Blood Red Road is one of the best out of the plethora of dystopians that have emerged on the YA scene recently. It’s already gotten a movie deal, which is no surprise – and has some of the strongest, distinct characters I have read in a while. There’s definitely something for everyone here. I’ll leave you with a quote from a scene I particularly enjoyed – where Saba and Jack meet for the first time.

‘Jest then, like he feels me watchin him, he stops what he’s doin. He lifts his head. Our eyes meet. He tosses the twig away, saunters up to the fence an hooks his hands into the chainlink.

He don’t say a word. He jest runs his eyes slowly over my body, right down to my feet, then up agin. Th’other men whistle an jeer. I feel heat rushin through me. Feel it stain my chest, my neck, my cheeks. I know I must be bright red. Then he smiles. A lopsided, crook of a smile.

My fist clench. Cocky bastard. Who does he think he is?

So I do the same to him. I cross my arms over my chest an look him up and down. Brown hair to his shoulders. Silver grey eyes in a tanned face. High cheekbones, a shadow of a beard. Crooked nose, like it’s bin broke. Lean but strong lookin. Like he knows how to take care of hisself. 

Our eyes meet agin.

Like what you see, Angel? he says.

I step to the fence. Hook my hands into the links, next to his. I lean in close. He’s got tiny white lines around his eyes from squintin. Or maybe smilin. He smells of warm dust an sage.

You ain’t my type, I says.’

Recommended Reading Age: 14+