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Blood Red Road: Dustlands    by Moira Young order for
Blood Red Road
by Moira Young
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Moira Young's Blood Red Road, first in the Dustlands series, is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where survivors scavenge what they can from the decaying remnants of the Wreckers who came before them.

Our heroine Saba's family live isolated at Silverlake. Saba, who has an intelligent pet crow named Nero, has always worshipped her twin brother Lugh and ignored her small sister Emmi, whom she blames for their mother's death when Emmi was born. Their father has not been the same since and Lugh has kept things together. But the lake is drying up, food is ever scarcer, and their situation is untenable.

One day, five horsemen show up, dressed in long black robes. They kidnap Lugh and Pa dies defending him. Saba takes Pa's last words to heart: 'Don't give in to fear. Be strong, like I know you are. An never give up, d'you understand, never.' Saba sets out on an action-packed quest to bring her brother home. Though she tries to leave her small sister with a family friend (who gives Saba her mother's heartstone), Emmi follows her.

After they are betrayed by an old couple met in the desert, Saba ends up as a cage fighter in Hopetown, dubbed the Angel of Death for her continuing victories. Determined to escape and rescue her brother - whom she learns is likely to be sacrificed at midsummer at Freedom Fields - she joins with a group of female fighters, the Free Hawks. But she risks her escape attempt - and her life - to save a cocky male fighter named Jack.

Saba and Jack develop a combative relationship as they and Emmi travel together towards Freedom Fields, gaining - and losing - allies along the way, and repeatedly saving each other's life. And Saba grows to love and respect the little sister she'd previously despised, discovering that Emmi is just as stubborn as she is. Their quest succeeds, but at a high cost, and this episode ends with Saba's small family heading west to the Big Water.

Saba is a remarkable character and Blood Red Road a compelling start to the Dustlands series. I'm anxious to see what comes next for Saba and her siblings as they struggle to survive their dystopian world. Don't miss this one - highly recommended!

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