Wow. Moira Young doesn't pull any punches, does she? The best way that I can think of to start this review is to warn readers that this book is raw and gritty. Young doesn't attempt to make the cruel, dystopian world that she writes pretty or glamorous, instead she writes with complete honesty, introducing the reader to this barren, dull world and these characters that have only ever known their small part of this world.
From page one I was pulled straight into the story, and there was never any part of the book that I felt like I had to put it down and take a break, or felt tempted to skip ahead, one thing that I have to say for Young's writing is that it's absorbing. At the beginning we're introduced to Saba and Lugh, two twins that have always done everything together, Saba has always followed in her brothers footsteps, so when Lugh is kidnapped, Saba has to step out of his shadow and along with nine year old Emmi, their sister.
This book has some of the best characterisation that I have ever read, we go from rough and ready Saba, who only cares for her brother and, to a smaller extent, her Dad to a stronger and wiser Saba with a sister that she loves and a lot of friends. I love how well this is done, Young never actually tells us 'Saba is now a better person', it's done very subtly, so that the reader sees it happening.
I also loved the romance storyline, the interaction between Saba and Jack was funny and yet awkward, Saba's thoughts are believable and the relationship is totally unique. Rather than it being so like other young adult books out there; ("I love you but I can't be with you because I'm a vampire/werewolf/thief" *begin angst*), both Saba and Jack's behaviour was believable and as the characters are older, the relationship is more mature.
One thing that may put readers off, as it did for me at the beginning is the narration. As well as creating a new dialect, which, while easy to read and follow is also a little distracting at times, the prose is also a little sparse. Short sentences and no use of speech marks meant that at times I struggled to work out what was Saba's thoughts and where people were actually speaking. Though I think this issue is a marmite issue, it could be the book's biggest achievement or it's biggest downfall, unfortunately for me, it was the second one.
There is a sequel coming out next year, though in my opinion, Blood Red Road could also have worked as a stand alone, the end isn't a cliffhanger and there are really no loose ends to tie up, so while I look forward to the sequel, I'm also not massively desperate to get it,
Overall, Young weaves a fantastic gritty story that grabs you, chews you up and spits you out. Beautiful characterisation and amazing honesty makes this book one to get for your TBR pile, definitely.
Overall rating: A-
Stand alone/series: First in a series
UK Release: June 2nd 2011
Publisher: ScholasticBook obtained via: Received from the publisher for review purposes