Well-paced adventure but could use more worldbuilding, 3.5 stars
Moira Young's debut, Blood Red Road, envisions a desolate post-apocalyptic world where resources are limited and nothing can be taken for granted, even family. Saba has grown up on a dry wasteland, knowing only her own family and a few wayward travelers. When a dust storm blows in four mysterious horsemen, Saba's beloved older brother Lugh is captured and taken away as words about a prophecy swirl in the air. Determined to find Lugh and bring him home, Saba sets out on a dangerous journey across the dustlands. On her quest, Saba finds both enemies and allies and challenges that test her and the very foundation of the corrupt society in which she lives.
BLOOD RED ROAD delivers a fun, well-paced read that's packed with adventure. Different than many other action tales, female characters in this story were never portrayed as less capable than men; in this world, gender seemed a moot point in most cases, as each person battles to survive regardless of sex. Saba knows how to survive because she's lived a hard life, not because she's just discovered a magical power or hidden talent. This realism made me believe more in her character and made me more invested in her struggles. Saba's character was also very believable due to the author's unique writing style that uses dialect-based spelling and missing punctuation. I know some other readers found this style distracting, but I thought it provided a good sense of place and circumstance.
While the action and intrigue kept me reading, the book did suffer from limited world building and character development. The how or why of the post-apocalyptic world was never explained, and there were somewhat unbelievable character changes in Saba by the end. A simple action-adventure tale can be fun, but I wanted there to be a deeper meaning and greater exploration of issues that arose. Problems and challenges that the characters encountered were also too easily resolved. Though the romance thankfully didn't overtake the story, it felt tacked on and sometimes unnecessary or too convenient.
Though these qualms had me wishing for a bit more, BLOOD RED ROAD is a still a rollicking good time that should appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and male and female readers alike. If you're looking for a closer examination of how governments go bad or why citizens resist, you won't find it here, but you probably won't mind because the book doesn't seem to have that as its goal. It wants to entertain, and it does that well. Because of that, I'll be looking forward to reading about Saba and her rag-tag group of comrades in the next installment of the Dustlands series.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.