The Dust Lands are a post-apocalyptic world where written language has been forgotten, civilization has collapsed, and the strong rule through fear. Saba has grown up in a shack in the middle of nowhere with her twin brother, her sister, and her father. She rarely sees other people and has never been to a town.
Then Tonton soldiers come. They kill her father and kidnap her brother. For the first time in her life, Saba can’t follow her brother’s lead. Now she must be the leader because her brother’s life depends on it. Saba leaves the only home she has ever known and sets off in search of her twin.
Adventure after adventure follows. Saba’s path is not a straight one, but she never gives up hope. She knows what she wants and will do anything to get it. Written in a regional dialect, this first-person narration shows Saba’s strong will and determination. Even when sold into slavery, Saba is never the victim. She is never weak and her spirit is never broken.
Blood Red Road is fast-paced and exciting. A large cast of characters adds to this richly developed world of droughts and ruin. What sets this novel apart is that Young effortlessly turns the traditional damsel-rescuer model on its head. Saba is a wonderful role model for teenage girls that proves girls can be strong heroes too. Because of the sexual content and the violence, Blood Red Road is best suited for high school readers.
- Jack gives Saba “a quick hard kiss” after she saves his life.
- When Saba is sold to the Cage Master, he “licks my ear slowly.”
- Jack comes to a river where Saba and Maev are bathing. “Jack nudges our pile of clothes with his foot. Grins. Well, ain’t this an innerestin sitchation? he says. Two girls naked in the water an me with all their clothes.”
- After rescuing Saba from a river, Jack kisses her. She pushes him away. Later Saba thinks Jack is dead, so she gives him mouth to mouth. It turns out he was faking.
- Saba finally gives in and kisses Jack back. “He pushes me aginst the wall. Then his mouth is on mine an he’s kissin me like he’s starvin or dyin of thirst or somethin. He kisses my lips, my face, my neck, then back to my lips agin. He lips is smooth. Warm. The smell of him fills me.”
- Saba’s neighbor and father are shot and killed. “The man slides a bolt shooter from his robe . . . He pulls the trigger an shoots Procter. Hob rears in fright. Proctor slides off an lands in a heap on the ground. He don’t move. . . He raises his bolt shooter. He fires. Pa cries out. His arms fly up in the air . . . the bolt’s gone right through his heart.”
- Saba slaps her nine year old sister. “She gasps an sobs an screams an screams an screams . . . So I slap her. An she stops.”
- Rooster’s hands are covered with burn scars from a hot poker, given to him by his abusive wife.
- Saba is sold and forced to become a cage fighter. When a fighter loses three times in a row, they must run the gauntlet. “He sprints up the center path. Hands reach out, hit him, grab at his tunic, trying to pull him down…the crowd surges forwards onto the path, howlin like wolves at a kill, an bodies close over him. Waves pullin down a drownin man. Artashir disappears.”
- During a break-out of the slaved cage fighters, bombs and weapons are used. “She lights her bottle. We toss ’em down the stairs. Then we run like stink. Two seconds later, there’s a huge bang. The ground shakes unner our feet.”
- A landboat crashes, killing all aboard. “Blood covers his face. His right leg splays out at a strange angle…I fit a arrow to my bow. Take aim. This is fer Emmi, I says. Then I shoot her (dead body) in the heart.”
- A mass grave is dislodged during a downpour; Saba ends up in a river surrounded by the dead. “I look down. It’s a human leg bone. I gasp. All around me, the dead are risin. Another leg bone bobs to the muddy surface. Then a skull. An arm bone. They swing lazily. The current grabs ’em an carries ’em away.”
- When traveling, Saba sees four hanged men on the side of the road. “That’s when we come upon the hanged men. Four of ’em. Danglin by their necks from nooses tied to the branches of a big, lightnin-black tree. They turn gentle in the breeze, their faces an hands gray where they bin covered with wet ash that’s dried.”
- Saba and her companions fight hellwurms. “The hellwurm’s on top of him. It rears up to its full height. It lashes out, swipes at him. Jack’s thrown into the air, like Emmi’s peg doll.”
- Epona is captured. In an act of mercy, Saba shoots and kills her. “Suddenly Epona spots me at the edge of the trees…I lift my bow. I take aim. Epona smiles. She nods…That’s when I shoot her.”
- There’s a battle between Saba’s people and the King’s. “Pinch lunges at me. A arrow whistles through th’ air. Hits him in the chest. He screams . . . There’s blood gushin outta his neck. The bolt’s ripped through it.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- An addictive drug named chaal is very popular. It is chewed and makes the consumer relaxed. The King is basically a drug lord who rules via chaal production.
- Saba and her sister’s food is drugged. “You put somethin in…the food…My hand drops down. My knees buckle unner me. I fall to the deck.”
- Saba drinks too much grog and gets a hangover in the morning. “I cain’t move, I says. There’s somebody poundin on my brain with a hammer . . . you drank too much of Ike’s hooch.”
- Jack offers Saba vodka when she has to have a wound stitched up. She refuses, and he drinks it instead.
- Profanity is used rarely in the story. However, the following words are used: bloody, holy crap, sonofabitch, bastard, gawdammit, and gawdsblood.
- Damn, hell and ohmigawd are used many times.
- Saba’s father is a star reader. He can see the future, and tries to bring rain (without success).
- Saba has a pet crow, named Nero, who can understand people talk.
- Saba is given a heartstone. “It stays cold until you get close to your heart’s desire. Then the stone becomes warm. The closer you get to your heart’s desire, the hotter the stone burns.”
- The crazy king demands an eighteen-year-old boy born at midwinter be sacrificed by being burnt alive every six years. He believes when the “boy dies, that boy’s spirit, his strength moves into . . . the King. An his power’s renewed fer another six years.”
- Saba discusses the afterlife with her brother. She thinks they’ll become stars. He thinks “you jest . . . stop. Yer heart don’t beat no more, you don’t breathe and then yer jest . . . gone.”
by Morgan Lynn