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Blood Red Road by Moira Young (2011)
Blood Red Road (2011)
by Moira Young
Hardcover Edition
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
buy a copy via Amazon.
synopsis via Goodreads.

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.

My Thoughts:
Blood Red Road is a breath of fresh air in YA literature. Moira Young’s writing style is definitely unique in Blood Red Road as it is written in a terse, phonetic style from the point of view of the protagonist, the fearless 18-year old, Saba. Despite her callous attitude towards–well, pretty much every except her beloved twin brother–Saba comes off as incredibly real. She is far from the perfect hero, and often has selfish intentions, but she is also a force to be reckoned with.

Plot:
18-year old Saba lives with her family in the middle of a desert. Her father is convinced he can predict the future from the stars, which Saba’s twin brother, Lugh dismisses. One day, Lugh is kidnapped by a group of mysterious men called the Tonton, who work for the king. Her father dies, and she is left with her younger sister, Emmi. She meets a bunch of friends (and a lover) and teams up with them on her dangerous journey to getting her brother back.

World-building:
As a lover of sci-fi, I was a disappointed with Young’s bleak take on the future. It seems like people have regressed: there’s no flying cars or high tech computers, instead people have gone back to traveling with horses…and land surfing ships. Somehow, there’s a monarchy under the rule of Vicar Pinch, who I still don’t know why is so powerful aside from the fact that he is incredibly lucky. He is compared to Louis XIV, the Sun King; but in this day and age, if my king was wearing gigantic robes, tights, and high heels, I doubt I would take him seriously. Maybe the standard of normality has regressed too? Why he hasn’t been overthrown by his men is beyond me.

Comparisons:
As for the comparisons to The Hunger Games, while I see why, I don’t think they are similar enough to compare (and I definitely enjoyed The Hunger Games a whole lot more for pace and adventure). I would say Blood Red Road wins for character development. Perhaps it’s from Saba’s POV that she is the only one which I feel has enough depth. But I look forward to exploring the other characters as the series progresses.

I think the only reason why they are being compared is that they are both in the YA genre, feature brave female archers as protagonists in a “dystopian” world, and have cage-fighting? Some have been saying that Blood Red Road is inspired by The Hunger Games–which makes me utterly confused because I did not get a Hunger Games vibe at all. The “dystopian” aspect of Blood Red Road seems a bit downplayed: apparently people are just drugged with “chaal,” rendering them into mindless slaves. Which leads me to wonder if the Tonton are drugged too.

Writing and Pace:
I have no complaints with the pace, Young balances fast and slow at just the right moments so you aren’t just bombarded with event after event. I was surprised when months of Saba’s cage-fighting was just breezed over. However, Saba’s phonetic way of speaking/Young’s writing took a long while to get used to and kept distracting me. I had to keep putting the book down in annoyance because of the writing. Even after I finished the novel, I was still annoyed with it, though I do see how it added to Saba’s character. It reminded me a bit of how I felt when I read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; like Huck, Saba sounds like an under-educated country bumpkin. Which I suppose she must be since she’s been living in the middle of a desert for all her life, and the novel must be written this way for Saba to sound like herself. Despite the phonetic style, Young doesn’t leave out the embellishments in her writing; the emotions and metaphors are skillfully retained. Surprisngly, I thought I was reading a male writer throughout the novel until I finished the book and flipped back to the front cover.

Characters:
Saba: Rude and totally unfeminine. She dislikes and often blames her younger sister, Emmi, though she tries to deny it, which oddly make her a lot easier to relate to. With Emmi’s stupid, rash, annoying decisions, I can definitely see why Saba constantly wants to leave her behind. At times, I get annoyed with Emmi as well. Young has created a character that may not be the nicest person on the block, but the reader still supports throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing her grow and gradually become more trusting.

Jack: Saba’s love interest. I loved how their romance played out, and wasn’t abruptly shoved into the reader’s faces. Jack is very personable, and in some ways, Saba’s polar opposite. But he also treats Saba as an equal, and admires her fierce attitude; he knows Saba is not a damsel in distress. Perhaps it’s because they are both strong-willed, brave characters that they can mutually respect one another. He is still very much an enigma though, and I can’t wait to uncover his story.

Lugh: I dislike him. I know he has golden hair and Saba loves him to pieces, but he comes off as a guy that is a eager to tell everyone else what to do (I might be just put-off since he seems to dislike Jack and Saba’s relationship.) think it must be because he needs to be saved that made me question his manliness. And the fact he accepted Tommo (a young, deaf? kid)’s bow in the middle of the fight, leaving Tommo with a slingshot, made me dislike him. Sure, Tommo offered the bow, but any gentleman would not leave a kid to his own defenses with a SLINGSHOT.

Emmi: I can see why Saba is eager to ditch this girl. I know she is just a nine-year old kid…but still. She does not know when to be scared, and when to LISTEN TO DIRECTIONS.

Final thoughts:
I had high hopes since it is supposedly better than The Hunger Games (which I loved to bits), but I can’t say it was that amazing. I felt the story was a just too predictable, there were no surprising factors. It was just so easy for Saba. I thought cage-fighting would be exciting, but…there was no challenge for Saba. She instantly became the unbeatable, Angel of Death. It is hard to root for a protagonist so perfect. I wanted more strategy and not just raw power (which is what made The Hunger Games shine miles above Blood Red Road). However, I have to commend Young for creating a array of interesting, brave characters. I am glad she was not afraid to kill off some people, which only made me admire them more. Blood Red Road’s sequel is coming in October, but I don’t know if I am curious enough to keep reading since everything seemed to be resolved already.

Rating: C+

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