Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blood Red Road, Moira Young

Sunrise was at 6:27, sunset will be at 7:55.

Muddy sunlight as the sun rises between the Cascades and Rainier. Pac Med glows in peach and the skyscrapers' south sides are the color of sunlight in smog.

Blood Red Road, by Moira Young, is a fabulous book for anyone interested in what the future on our world holds. Saba lives in not so much a dystopian world as an a-topian world, a post-apocalyptic world without government or much of a future for its folks. She and her twin brother, Lugh, were born 18 years ago when there was still plenty of water and small excesses of crops, enough to share if needed. They live on a small holding with a tiny pond with their father and younger sister, Emmi.

When the story starts, Lugh is beginning to chafe against the future he sees for himself and his father seems to be going mad, reading their futures in the mud and sand of the holding. Saba only wants Lugh to stop wanting to leave her and the homestead.

A massive sandstorm moves through on Lugh and Saba's 18th birthdays hiding a violent posse of men on horseback, there to kidnap Lugh, killing their father and leaving Emmi and Saba alone in an uninhabited, unfriendly landscape. Saba can't imagine a life without her twin and decides to leave Emmi with the only other person they know of, a woman living in a hidden valley, the woman who helped deliver the twins but arrived too late to save their mother when Emmi came early. Saba has blamed Emmi for their mother's death ever since, hating her and treating her badly- this is the perfect way to leave her behind and get on with things by herself. However, Emmi loves her brother, too, and there is no way she's going to be left in the valley alone.

The ensuing search for Lugh is one of the most exciting adventure stories I've read in years! Saba and Emmi eventually learn to work together, sharing their skills, as they are arrested, kidnapped, beaten, become part of an underground movement to free an entire town, and fall in love.

Blood Red Road is filled with great characters, humor, and adventure. The world Ms. Young has invented is realistic and scary, like a denuded, dry New Zealand, and Saba is a flawed and sometimes unlikable hero. But, she is strong, dependable, loyal, and has a one track mind, to get to Lugh. The people she meets along the way, especially the women in the prison where she fights other people to the death, join her in her quest to get to Lugh because he has been taken by the man who has kept them imprisoned and impoverished for so long.

I love how the characters grow in the book, they become fully fleshed and learn from all their mistakes as they go. I love how the relationship between Emmi and Saba changes. I'd like to know more about Emmi, all those years of knowing Saba hates her, living without a sister, losing her brother, knowing she's the reason her mother died, raised by a not-so-lucid father, never knowing a world with water or excess, pretty much raising herself and teaching herself warrior skills and the virtues she needs to get along in the world. She's an interesting one. And then there's the crow, Nero. Saba saved Nero as a baby and they have forged a language of their own, Nero able to understand commands and words, and is a force of his own.

Definitely a book for 11 and up, just because of all the gore. I am really hoping there will be more by Moira Young. And I would love to know more about this world. (Simon and Schuster. $17.99. Available in June, 2011.)

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