Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Blood Red Road

Review: Blood Red Road
Author: Moira Young
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, dystopian, young adult
My Rating: ★★★★

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If you’re one of those readers still ensnared with The Hunger Games virus and still hungry for more quality YA dystopian lit, I advise you to check out Blood Red Road, Canadian author Moira Young’s novel that’s still piping hot from the post-apocalyptic oven.

With the sudden flurry of dystopian-themed books hitting the shelves in the wake of The Hunger Games’ success, I became a little wary about picking titles under the said genre. While I have a weakness for rebellious characters, I can’t help but to shun books that have the this-girl-stands-up-and-pops-the-bubble-of-tyranny-in-their-futuristic-world kind of formula, with blurbs at the back that don’t even effort to not sound like a rip-off from the trilogy I love. But what the heck, I thought. It will be harmless to try another one. I pick up Blood Red Road because the society there seems more like anarchy than tyranny (interesting break, if you ask me), and from what I heard it has a bunch of butt-kicking heroines that I shouldn’t miss.

The story revolves around Saba, an eighteen-year-old girl who lives contentedly with her family in a desert-like wasteland called Silverlake. Sandstorms are a commonplace there, but a giant dust storm arrives one day bearing four armed horsemen to abduct Saba’s twin brother, Lugh. They are certainly not the horsemen who we know would signal the start of the Apocalypse (if they are, someone needs to tell them they’re too late) but they sure seem to be harbingers of doom for our heroine. Knowing that there’s no turning back, Saba embarks on a quest to rescue her brother, meeting friends and enemies along the way, and fighting her inner demons that she has shunned her whole life.

The first thing readers will notice about this book is that it’s written in dialect, in Saba’s POV. It’s a pain to read at first, but after twenty pages or so I think readers will easily adjust to Saba’s narrative voice. I realized Young pretty much hit two birds with one stone when she chose this prose because it (1) helped in molding Saba into a more fleshed out character and (2) it aided greatly in the world-building. Since the world has just risen up from the ashes of the “wrecking,” the civilization also reboots. Saba cannot read or write and her family is isolated, and this is reflected in her language.

As a character, Saba has shades of Katniss Everdeen in her: the feistiness, the stubbornness, the instinct for survival, and of course the selfishness. Saba’s got more of the last than Katniss, too much of it that sometimes it’s very infuriating. It’s not the best fuel around, but it is enough to drive Saba to complete her mission, even if it means resorting to bloodthirsty methods or abandoning the people who helped her in the past. But as she goes through her quest, she eventually softens, and over time she let people around her help her grow out of the hard, savage shell she’s contained herself in. She becomes more mature, and she learns how to love sincerely.

My damsel-in-distress alarm didn’t go off: from the female cagefighters in Hopetown’s gladiatorial games to the girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, you can be assured that everybody is ready to kick some behinds whenever needed. Even Emmi, Saba’s nine-year-old sister, refuses to be tied down as a child that needs protection and chooses to fight alongside her sister. The great thing is, Young serves these characters in a silver platter. She doesn’t try so hard to make them loom larger than the masculine characters in the story; instead she focuses on shaping them as real albeit flawed fighters that adapt to their dangerous surroundings.

It is also nice to see how the romantic subplot slowly unfolds, although I think it’s nothing new…the hate-becomes-love type of romances, you know. Except that the boy lead is completely awesome, the type that can go cheeseballs all he wants without diminishing his badass attitude or sounding like Edward Cullen. :P

The narration makes this book more character-centric than plot-centric, and the world-building bit is not exactly sterling. There are some questions left at the end, but I guess that’s what the sequels are for.

But all in all, this is a fantastic read! Almost on par with The Hunger Games I dare say. I can’t wait for the next installment!

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random announcement: Yes! My camera's repaired already! :) I seldom do reviews without photos of books to go with them. Hee!

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