A good novel feels like its characters include you in the conversation. In Moira Young’s “Blood Red Road,” Saba lives in an illiterate world, so conversation is everything. Reading is virtually unheard of and advanced technology, from our own “Wrecker” times, is shunned. In a desert saloon town in the futuristic United States, humanity has destroyed modern civilization and returned to roots of crude savagery and violent spectacle.
When mysterious men on horseback charge into Saba’s peaceful desert home, they take the only bliss she clings to: her twin brother, Lugh, the golden boy and joy in her life. In the fight to get him back, she’s thrown into an adventure far beyond the quiet life she’s always known. The plot to kidnap him stretches all the way to the crazed king, who believes killing Lugh during the peak of mid-summer will extend his own life.
Saba’s story ultimately forces her to interact with other people, beyond her idolized brother. She has lived in isolation with her family for her whole life and hopes to journey on alone to rescue Lugh, but her troublesome little sister tags along.
While she fights for Lugh’s freedom, she grapples with her emotions — Lugh ties her to the future, while her sister at first holds her back and ties her to the past. Saba is distrustful of all and skeptical of new ties, but the skepticism slowly fades as she realizes she must interact and help others in order to reach Lugh.
The style of “Blood Red Road” was jarring to me at first, but once I settled down with it, it set the mood of the story perfectly. The characters are a bit rough- and -tumble, proud of their ways and desperate to survive. The narrative is bare- and isn’t clearly marked off from the dialogue.
It’s clear words have evolved to fit the ruined civilization. Words like “ezzackly,” “hafta” and “pickaback” are frequent throughout the story, but there is a charm and flow to all speech. Saba, above all, is proud of her ruggedness and humble origins, and her dialogue reflects that.
The flaws I encountered within the novel (assistance in times of trouble, for one, feels all too convenient) were heavily balanced with the authenticity of her worldview. Although it’s a journey novel, “Blood Red Road” has strengths that lie in its relationships.
When humanity betrays the world with war and destruction, it is hard for each individual to trust again. This is the story of one girl who, at first only to find Lugh, learns to trust with her whole heart. But, eventually, she trusts enough to find the whole world waiting, filled with friendships and opportunities.