The International Writers Magazine: Teen Fiction Review
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Marion Lloyd Books (June 2011) UK
There is something quite calculating about Blood Red Road and the story of Saba from the Dustlands.
Take a pinch of Hunger Games, a peck of Gladiator and a major sniff of The Droughtlanders, add a dash of Mad Max and The Road and you have an explosive cocktail to play with.
Moira Young (a former Canadian Actor) has carefully blended all the dystopian genre has to offer and certainly hit target.
The novel begins in a post-climate changed, post-industrial apocalyptic USA. Nothing is explained as to why this is so, but that probably doesn't matter, it's a common enough theme. Saba lives with her Pa (who has gone crazy) her twin brother Lugh and little sister Em on a farm by a dried out lake. It's a tough existence and Lugh, the brother wants out. The Pa is casting bones to make it rain and they are near starving. Saba seems to be the one to keep things together since their mother died some time ago.
Suddenly hooded riders pitch up during a terrible sandstorm - start shooting and they grab her brother Lugh because he was born exactly at midwinter 18 years ago. They aren't interested in Saba or Em and ride off with her brother. Pa and another man, their neighbour, lie dead in the dust. Saba vows to find her brother - no matter what.
First she has to ditch her little sister and they make a perilous five day trek to the nearest dwelling to do that. Saba is irritated by her sister who finds it hard to keep up.They are followed by her pet Crow who will not abandon Saba.
Saba leaves Em in the care of another in the woods and sets off across the desert, following the trail to her brother. Little sister Em has other ideas though and steals a horse and sets off to track Saba - finding her moments before they are captured by the evil Miz Pinch who sails a landyacht with henpecked Mr Pinch. It is bad luck for Saba that Miz Pinch (an enormous woman with big hands) is looking for her next cage fighter and she thinks Saba is perfect. Yep, you never saw that coming.
Blood Red Road is violent. Saba is super tough and Em is wiley for a nine year old kid. Saba has to fight, or they will kill her little sister. If she loses more than three fights she will be killed herself. Saba doesn't intend to lose a fight and quickly acquires a reputation that brings in the blood lust crowds. The crowds also fear her weird crow that attends every fight.
Then there is handsome Jack who is a cocky know it all with whom Saba feels a 'connection'. There is also the Hawks, cute tough chicks who are handy with horses, bows and arrows and no doubt looking for a decent shampoo sponsor.
There is even an evil King Pinch, who is a loon, but not so stupid he hasn't gained the control of the Eastern Seaboard with Chaal, a drug that pretty much everyone is addicted to. The King owns pretty much everything, even the cage fighting. Saba has her work cut out for her, but maybe the Hawks will help - so she can get free, find Em and then go looking for brother Lugh.
Blood Red Road is a galloping romp, with blood spilled almost on every page and there was never a tougher brother than Lugh (who is be a live sacrifice at the winter equinox) but in this first book is a tad under defined. Is there romance? Well, if Saba can free Jack something might happen, but he seems to mock her a lot and she just hates that.
If you hunger after Katmiss now that Hunger Games are over then Blood Red Road will give you the perfect fix. However, when ordering, I suggest you check out The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac on the way and then compare. You won't be sorry.
© Sam Hawksmoor August 2011
Coming in March 2012 - The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor from Hodder