Blood Red Road felt like a broken-down car that magically transformed into a roaring Land Rover. . . and accelerating through the change was thrilling. I didn’t like the beginning of the book at all, but as the pace picked up, I was so hooked by the dystopian tale that Young spun that I couldn’t put it down. The characters develop emotionally throughout the book, and the plot is also full of surprises. Despite a few things that tripped me up, I enjoyed Blood Red Road, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel.
Eighteen-year-old Saba lives in dried up Silverlake with her astrologer-wannabe Pa, her twin brother Lugh, and her nine-year-old sister Emmi. With no recent rainfalls on a stretch of desert as far as the eye can see, Saba and her family are trying to survive on a harsh land that was once lush and plentiful. One day, strangers on horseback arrive at their home and kidnap Lugh, killing their Pa in the process. Saba and Emmi set out to get Lugh back. . . but they end up in more trouble than they asked for, for the world outside their isolated home in Silverlake is full of corruption and deceit, driven by the prominent use a drug called “chaal.” On their journey, Saba discovers her inner “red hot”, a condition that makes her strong and undefeatable; meets Jack, an arrogant thief who distracts her from thinking about Lugh; and unwilling befriends a girl gang of robbers who call themselves the Free Hawks.
Saba is someone who flourishes in the dystopian setting of Blood Red Road: she’s headstrong, wary of the unknown, and takes care of herself before others. At the beginning, she has a one-track mind for Lugh, since she spent all her life up to that point following him. Her bitter relationship with Emmi, whose early birth “caused” their mother’s death, fills most of their journey with unbearable tension. But later on, as Saba meets more people than she’s ever met before – made to rely on others as she’s never done before – Saba really grows as a character because she slowly develops compassion for others. For the first time in her life, Saba has to think for herself instead of just following Lugh, and she learns to look beyond her circle of two (herself + Lugh) in order to assess her relationship with her sister, her friends, and Jack. Saba’s “red hot” moments – in which she sees red, in a sense – also make her an interesting character (even though “red hot” has also made me misspell the title of the book more than once).
Jack, fittingly described by Saba as being “eel-like”, is sly, suave, and silver-eyed. . . pretty typical hero character, basically. I like his interactions with Saba because he aids in her character development, but just by himself, Jack acts unpredictably and doesn’t play a big enough role in this first book for me to decide whether I like him or not. (I snuck a peek at the second book, Rebel Heart, and Jack has a bigger presence in that one. So we’ll see?)
Saba’s pet crow, Nero, also provides added entertainment. The part I always get tripped up on with Nero is when he does this:
Nero appears in the darkenin sky above me. He lands on my head, flappin his wings.
I mean, a crow is at least twice the size of a sparrow, so wouldn’t it hurt for one to land on your head? And what about the claws? (I spent
more time than I should a good half hour trying to look this up, and came up with zip.)
And no, those aren’t typos in the quote. Young’s dystopian world lacks written text, with very few books surviving whatever happened to mankind before dystopia set in. So Saba and most people in this world don’t talk or write as we do, and this was definitely the hardest part to get used to (and why I used the “broken-down car” analogy); but my mind either adapted or Young decreased the amount of wrongly spelt words. Either way, once I got hooked, my issues with the language faded and I was very much absorbed in the action.
The pacing of Blood Red Road steadily quickens until it reaches the climax, so boredom due to a slow pace is never an issue. The use of drugs to control a society is a novel idea that I’ve never read about, so I like the unique central themes in the book. However, one thing I have an issue with is unnecessary character killing, and from my point of view, that does occur in Blood Red Road. However, I might be proven wrong in the sequels, and maybe they do hold some meaning.
Overall, Blood Red Road is a combination of a unique dystopian society, strong character development, and lots and lots of sand. It leaves you with a satisfactory ending, but also makes you want to go and pick up the next book. If you like dystopian novels, pet crows, and heroines going berserk, you should give Blood Red Road a try!
Have you read Blood Red Road? If not, is it on your to-read list? Do you know if it hurts when crows land on your head? Let me know!