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Blood Red Road (Dust Lands Series #1)

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands Series #1)

4.2 284
by Moira Young

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Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's


Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

Editorial Reviews

"Lugh's gone. Gone. My golden heart is gone. I kneel in the dust. The tears roll down my face. An a hard red rain starts to fall." When her "older" twin brother is captured by marauding horsemen, Saba knows that she will have to leave the ravaged landfills that have supported her family since the destruction of their civilization. Moira Young's Blood Red Road marks the auspicious beginning of an ambitious post-apocalyptic series that will ensnare your attention.

Publishers Weekly
Young's powerful debut, first in the Dustlands series, is elevated above its now familiar postapocalyptic setting by an intriguing prose style and strong narrative voice that show a distinct Cormac McCarthy vibe. When 18-year-old Saba's father is killed and her twin brother, Lugh, is kidnapped, she sets out to rescue him, along with their younger sister, Emmi, and Saba's intelligent raven, Nero. Their travels across the desert wasteland bring them to a violent city in which Saba is forced to fight for her life in an arena. When she escapes with the help of a group of women warriors, she and her new allies (including a handsome and infuriating male warrior named Jack) try to prevent Lugh from being sacrificed. Young's writing style—channeled through Saba's wonderfully defined narrative voice—may be off-putting at first, but readers will quickly get used to the lack of quotation marks and idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation ("There ain't nuthin written in the stars. They're jest lights in the sky") and be riveted by the book's fast-paced mix of action and romance. It's a natural for Hunger Games fans. Ages 14–up. (June)
Children's Literature - Heather Kinard
The dried up wasteland known as Silverlake is a harsh and unforgiving place, but it is home to 18 year-old Saba and her family. Her mother died nine years ago while giving birth to Saba's younger sister, Emmi. Since then her father has been distant and almost absent from their lives. Saba's only comfort is her twin brother, Lugh, who is the rock that holds the family together. One day a huge dust storm arrives, bringing with it four cloaked horseman who will change their lives forever. Her father is murdered and Lugh is kidnapped leaving Saba and Emmi all alone. Saba is determined to find her brother and bring him home safely, but is unprepared for the brutal reality of the outside world. Her brother's trail leads her to Hopetown, a city ruled by an evil King who controls his subjects by drugging them. Saba is quickly captured and forced to be a cage fighter with other prisoners as a form of entertainment for the King and his subjects. In her captivity, Saba meets a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks. Together they plot their escape from captivity and make a plan to save not only Lugh, but perhaps their entire civilization. Throughout this adventure, Saba discovers her own strength and the importance of trust, family, and forgiveness. This book is a fast paced story filled with adventure, suspense, and even a little romance. This book is recommended for readers who enjoyed "The Hunger Games" series. Be aware there is some violence and mild language included. Reviewer: Heather Kinard
Kirkus Reviews

Born on Midwinter Day, Saba and her twin brother Lugh are opposites—she's dark, scrawny and cantankerous, while he exudes calm with his golden beauty—but that doesn't stop her from rising to the occasion when he needs her.

Weeks before their 18th birthday, four rough horsemen ride into their isolated, desert homestead, killing their star-reading Pa and taking Lugh captive. Saba embarks on a treacherous journey to save Lugh, with her pet crow, Nero, and her 9-year-old sister, Emmi, in tow. Saba and Emmi are kidnapped by slavers, who sell Saba to the Cage Master of the Colosseum, where she becomes known as the Angel of Death. Overseeing this macabre world is a king who keeps people in check with a narcotic, convincing them to renew his life by sacrificing a boy born on Midwinter Day. Saba learns about Lugh's fate from Jack, a fellow prisoner. With the help of Nero and a group of freedom fighters, Jack and Saba escape and rush to Lugh's rescue. This debut is a mashup of Spartacus, the court of Louis XIV and post-apocalyptic dystopia. Saba's naive, uneducated voice narrates this well-paced heroic quest in dialect, an effective device for this tale that combines a love story, monsters and sibling rivalry.

Readers looking for a strong female protagonist will find much to look forward to in this new series. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Jessica Bruder
Much of Young's writing has an elemental power, unfolding across achingly barren landscapes, full of blistering "hotwinds" and swirling clouds of orange dust. Scenes are brief, told in a few pages with fast-paced action…The words themselves are distinct too. Nearly all of Young's characters are illiterate. Saba narrates her story in frayed English, full of phonetic spellings and other quirks…The dialect takes getting used to, but the payoff is a musical brokenness to the language, which creaks along nicely with Saba's observations of her torn-up surroundings.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
*"Young's powerful debut, first in the Dustlands series, is elevated above its now familiar postapocalyptic setting by an intriguing prose style and strong narrative voice that show a distinct Cormac McCarthy vibe. It's a natural for Hunger Games fans."

--Publishers Weekly *STAR

Blood Red Road will capture any reader who picks it up. I love everything about Saba - her language, her intensity, her heart. Everyone should read her story.”--James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner

“I absolutely loved Blood Red Road. What a great read! Moira Young goes over the top with a most engaging heroine. Saba is a crusty, foul-tempered warrior woman who must be covered in scar tissue by the end of the book, but men still follow her around like starving wolves. The dialogue is fast and often humorous, the pace never lets up. No situation is so bad that it can't get worse in the next couple of pages. I especially liked the awakening of the hellwurms as they emerge to feed. Well done, Ms. Young!”--Nancy Farmer, author of The House of the Scorpion

“Better than The Hunger Games. . . . This book will blow you away.”—MTV’s Hollywood Crush blog

“Is it any surprise that Ridley Scott swiftly optioned the book?”—New York Times Book Review

Blood Red Road is an eerie and adventurous dystopian fantasy on par with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker.”—LA Times

Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
All her life, Saba has relied on her twin brother Lugh to keep their family safe in the desert wasteland they call home. But when Lugh is kidnapped by a band of horsemen who also kill their father, Saba decides to venture out into the unknown outside territories with her younger sister Emmi and search for him. Their mission goes horribly wrong when they are captured and Saba is forced into the brutal life of a cage fighter. Escaping with the aid of a cocky rogue named Jack and a gang of girl thieves, Saba learns she must journey to the heart of their lawless civilization to rescue her brother from a gruesome fate. With time running out and Saba's own foul temper creating wedges between her and her new allies, can this motley gang pull together in time to succeed in their mission? Read by Broadway actress Heather Lind, this audio book version of the first installment in Moira Young's post-apocalyptic "Dustland" series spotlights an unusual protagonist whose strength and passion enable her to overcome horrible ordeals even as her temper and hypocrisy constantly throw her back into jeopardy. Saba isn't the easiest character to like as she regularly mistreats her sister and pushes away her friends; it's telling that it's easiest to root for her when she's fighting much nastier people than herself. Nonetheless, Young does a good job of creating a dystopian world full of greed, violence, and morally gray people, while Lind shows remarkable range in creating convincing voices for Saba and her nine-year-old sister. The leering drawl she gives Saba's love interest Jack, however, often makes him sound more creepy than charming. Notably, given that the prose version of this novel is written in an unconventional style (lacking quotation marks and intentionally misspelling words to match the "backwoods" dialect of the characters) some readers may actually find the audiobook easier to follow than Young's printed edition. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
Library Journal
Young's coming-of-age, young adult action/romance first novel is set in postapocalyptic times. When her father is murdered and her twin brother is kidnapped, sheltered 18-year-old Saba is suddenly thrown into a violent world inhabited by brutal people, giant wormlike monsters, female warriors, superstition, and a vicious king. The text is written in ungrammatical English that can be very hard on the ear, especially when reader Heather Lind annoyingly barks, "I says," "she says," "he says," after each character's dialog. Recommended for Mad Max and Hunger Games fans who do not mind listening to fractured English. This text might be easier to read than to hear.—Ilka Gordon, Siegal Coll. of Judaic Studies Lib., Cleveland
School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—In the first gripping title (Margaret K. McElderry Bks., 2011) of Moira Young's post-apocalyptic trilogy, 18-year-old Saba ventures into the harsh and unforgiving world outside of her isolated home after masked horsemen kill her father and kidnap her twin brother. Determined to find him, Saba sets out for Hopetown, only to be followed by her younger sister. They are unprepared for the danger and treachery they encounter. Captured and forced to fight in gladiator-style cage fights for the entertainment of the Hopetown residents, Saba never loses her single-minded focus on surviving to find her brother. But her actions could have far-reaching consequences for her civilization. Listeners are treated to an impressive performance by Heather Lind, whose believably youthful voice resonates as the hard, resolute protagonist. The first person present tense narration heightens the intensity and immediacy of the action, as well as Saba's raw emotions. Lind also gives supporting characters unique voices, and turns in a fine performance of the dialect written by the author. A perfect choice for fans of Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" trilogy, and a good fit for listeners who enjoyed Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Patrick Ness's "Chaos Walking" trilogy.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Dust Lands Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.52(h) x 1.48(d)
HL460L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Blood Red Road

THE DAY’S HOT. SO HOT AN SO DRY THAT ALL I CAN TASTE IN my mouth is dust. The kinda white heat day when you can hear th’earth crack.

We ain’t had a drop of rain fer near six months now. Even the spring that feeds the lake’s startin to run dry. You gotta walk some ways out now to fill a bucket. Pretty soon, there won’t be no point in callin it by its name.


Every day Pa tries another one of his charms or spells. An every day, big bellied rainclouds gather on the horizon. Our hearts beat faster an our hopes rise as they creep our way. But, well before they reach us, they break apart, thin out an disappear. Every time.

Pa never says naught. He jest stares at the sky, the clear cruel sky. Then he gathers up the stones or twigs or whatever he’s set out on the ground this time, an puts ’em away fer tomorrow.

Today, he shoves his hat back. Tips his head up an studies the sky fer a long while.

I do believe I’ll try a circle, he says. Yuh, I reckon a circle might be jest the thing.

Lugh’s bin sayin it fer a while now. Pa’s gittin worse. With every dry day that passes, a little bit more of Pa seems to . . . I guess disappear’s the best word fer it.

Once we could count on pullin a fish from the lake an a beast from our traps. Fer everythin else, we planted some, foraged some, an, all in all, we made out okay. But fer the last year, whatever we do, however hard we try, it jest ain’t enough. Not without rain. We bin watchin the land die, bit by bit.

An it’s the same with Pa. Day by day, what’s best in him withers away. Mind you, he ain’t bin right fer a long time. Not since Ma died. But what Lugh says is true. Jest like the land, Pa’s gittin worse an his eyes look more’n more to the sky instead of what’s here in front of him.

I don’t think he even sees us no more. Not really.

Emmi runs wild these days, with filthy hair an a runny nose. If it warn’t fer Lugh, I don’t think she’d ever wash at all.

Before Emmi was born, when Ma was still alive an everythin was happy, Pa was different. Ma could always make him laugh. He’d chase me an Lugh around, or throw us up over his head till we shrieked fer him to stop. An he’d warn us about the wickedness of the world beyond Silverlake. Back then, I didn’t think there could be anybody ever lived who was taller or stronger or smarter’n our pa.

I watch him outta the corner of my eye while me an Lugh git on with repairs to the shanty roof. The walls is sturdy enough, bein that they’re made from tires all piled one on top of th’other. But the wicked hotwinds that whip across the lake sneak their way into the smallest chink an lift whole parts of the roof at once. We’re always havin to mend the damn thing.

So, after last night’s hotwind, me an Lugh was down at the landfill at first light scavengin. We dug around a part of it we ain’t never tried before an damn if we didn’t manage to score ourselves some primo Wrecker junk. A nice big sheet of metal, not too rusted, an a cookin pot that’s still got its handle.

Lugh works on the roof while I do what I always do, which is clamber up an down the ladder an hand him what he needs.

Nero does what he always does, which is perch on my shoulder an caw real loud, right in my ear, to tell me what he’s thinkin. He’s always got a opinion does Nero, an he’s real smart too. I figger if only we could unnerstand crow talk, we’d find he was tellin us a thing or two about the best way to fix a roof.

He’ll of thought about it, you can bet on that. He’s watched us fix it fer five year now. Ever since I found him fell outta the nest an his ma nowhere to be seen. Pa warn’t too happy to see me bring a crow babby home. He told me some folk consider crows bring death, but I was set on rearin him by hand an once I set my mind on somethin I stick with it.

An then there’s Emmi. She’s doin what she always does, which is pester me an Lugh. She dogs my heels as I go from the ladder to the junk pile an back.

I wanna help, she says.

Hold the ladder then, I says.

No! I mean really help! All you ever let me do is hold the ladder!

Well, I says, maybe that’s all yer fit fer. You ever think of that?

She folds her arms across her skinny little chest an scowls at me. Yer mean, she says.

So you keep tellin me, I says.

I start up the ladder, a piece of rusty metal in my hand, but I ain’t gone more’n three rungs before she takes hold an starts shakin it. I grab on to stop myself from fallin. Nero squawks an flaps off in a flurry of feathers. I glare down at Em.

Cut that out! I says. What’re you tryin to do, break my neck?

Lugh’s head pops over the side of the roof. All right, Em, he says, that’s enough. Go help Pa.

Right away, she lets go. Emmi always does what Lugh tells her.

But I wanna help you, she says with her sulky face.

We don’t need yer help, I says. We’re doin jest fine without you.

Yer the meanest sister that ever lived! I hate you, Saba!

Good! Cuz I hate you too!

That’s enough! says Lugh. Both of yuz!

Emmi sticks her tongue out at me an stomps off. I shin up the ladder onto the roof, crawl along an hand him the metal sheet.

I swear I’m gonna kill her one of these days, I says.

She’s only nine, Saba, says Lugh. You might try bein nice to her fer a change.

I grunt an hunker down nearby. Up here on the roof, I can see everythin. Emmi ridin around on her rickety two-wheeler that Lugh found in the landfill. Pa at his spell circle.

It ain’t nuthin more’n a bit of ground that he leveled off by stompin it down with his boots. We ain’t permitted nowhere near it, not without his say so. He’s always fussin around, sweepin clear any twigs or sand that blow onto it. He ain’t set out none of the sticks fer his rain circle on the ground yet. I watch as he lays down the broom. Then he takes three steps to the right an three steps to the left. Then he does it agin. An agin.

You seen what Pa’s up to? I says to Lugh.

He don’t raise his head. Jest starts hammerin away at the sheet to straighten it.

I seen, he says. He did it yesterday too. An the day before.

What’s all that about? I says. Goin right, then left, over an over.

How should I know? he says. His lips is pressed together in a tight line. He’s got that look on his face agin. The blank look he gits when Pa says somethin or asks him to do somethin. I see it on him more an more these days.

Lugh! Pa lifts his head, shadin his eyes. I could use yer help here, son!

Foolish old man, Lugh mutters. He gives the metal sheet a extra hard whack with the hammer.

Don’t say that, I says. Pa knows what he’s doin. He’s a star reader.

Lugh looks at me. Shakes his head, like he cain’t believe I jest said what I did.

Ain’t you figgered it out yet? It’s all in his head. Made up. There ain’t nuthin written in the stars. There ain’t no great plan. The world goes on. Our lives jest go on an on in this gawdfersaken place. An that’s it. Till the day we die. I tell you what, Saba, I’ve took about all I can take.

I stare at him.

Lugh! Pa yells.

I’m busy! Lugh yells back.

Right now, son!

Lugh swears unner his breath. He throws the hammer down, pushes past me an pratikally runs down the ladder. He rushes over to Pa. He snatches the sticks from him an throws ’em to the ground. They scatter all over.

There! Lugh shouts. There you go! That should help! That should make the gawdam rain come! He kicks Pa’s new-swept spell circle till the dust flies. He pokes his finger hard into Pa’s chest. Wake up, old man! Yer livin in a dream! The rain ain’t never gonna come! This hellhole is dyin an we’re gonna die too if we stay here. Well, guess what? I ain’t doin it no more! I’m outta here!

I knew this would come, says Pa. The stars told me you was unhappy, son. He reaches out an puts a hand on Lugh’s arm. Lugh flings it off so fierce it makes Pa stagger backwards.

Yer crazy, you know that? Lugh shouts it right in his face. The stars told you! Why don’t you jest try listenin to what I say fer once?

He runs off. I hurry down the ladder. Pa’s starin at the ground, his shoulders slumped.

I don’t unnerstand, he says. I see the rain comin. . . . I read it in the stars but . . . it don’t come. Why don’t it come?

It’s okay, Pa, says Emmi. I’ll help you. I’ll put ’em where you want. She scrabbles about on her knees, collectin all the sticks. She looks at him with a anxious smile.

Lugh didn’t mean it Pa, she says. I know he didn’t.

I go right on past ’em.

I know where Lugh’s headed.

†    †    †

I find him at Ma’s rock garden.

He sits on the ground, in the middle of the swirlin patterns, the squares an circles an little paths made from all different stones, each their own shade an size. Every last tiny pebble set out by Ma with her own hands. She wouldn’t allow that anybody should help her.

She carefully laid the last stone in place. Sat back on her heels an smiled at me, rubbin at her big babby-swolled belly. Her long golden hair in a braid over one shoulder.

There! You see, Saba? There can be beauty anywhere. Even here. An if it ain’t there, you can make it yerself.

The day after that, she birthed Emmi. A month too early. Ma bled fer two days, then she died. We built her funeral pyre high an sent her spirit back to the stars. Once we’d scattered her ash to the winds, all we was left with was Em.

A ugly little red scrap with a heartbeat like a whisper. More like a newborn mouse than a person. By rights, she shouldn’t of lasted longer’n a day or two. But somehow she hung on an she’s still here. Small fer her age though, an scrawny.

Fer a long time, I couldn’t stand even lookin at her. When Lugh says I shouldn’t be so hard on her, I says that if it warn’t fer Emmi, Ma ’ud still be alive. He ain’t got no answer to that cuz he knows it’s true, but he always shakes his head an says somethin like, It’s time you got over it, Saba, an that kinda thing.

I put up with Emmi these days, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Now I set myself down on the hard-packed earth so’s my back leans against Lugh’s. I like it when we sit like this. I can feel his voice rumble inside my body when he talks. It must of bin like this when the two of us was inside Ma’s belly together. Esseptin that neether of us could talk then, of course.

We sit there fer a bit, silent. Then, We should of left here a long time ago, he says. There’s gotta be better places’n this. Pa should of took us away.

You ain’t really leavin, I says.

Ain’t I? There ain’t no reason to stay. I cain’t jest sit around waitin to die.

Where would you go?

It don’t matter. Anywhere, so long as it ain’t Silverlake.

But you cain’t. It’s too dangerous.

We only got Pa’s word fer that. You do know that you an me ain’t ever bin more’n one day’s walk in any direction our whole lives. We never see nobody essept ourselves.

That ain’t true, I says. What about that crazy medicine woman on her camel last year? An . . . we see Potbelly Pete. He’s always got a story or two about where he’s bin an who he’s seen.

I ain’t talkin about some shyster pedlar man stoppin by every couple of months, he says. By the way, I’m still sore about them britches he tried to unload on me last time.

They was hummin all right, I says. Like a skunk wore ’em last. Hey wait, you fergot Procter.

Our only neighbor’s four leagues north of here. He’s a lone man, name of Procter John. He set up homestead jest around the time Lugh an me got born. He drops by once a month or so. Not that he ever stops proper, mind. He don’t git down offa his horse, Hob, but jest pulls up by the hut. Then he says the same thing, every time.

G’day, Willem. How’s the young ’uns? All right?

They’re fine, Procter, says Pa. You?

Well enough to last a bit longer.

Then he tips his hat an goes off an we don’t see him fer another month. Pa don’t like him. He never says so, but you can tell. You’d think he’d be glad of somebody to talk to besides us, but he never invites Procter to stay an take a dram.

Lugh says it’s on account of the chaal. We only know that’s what it’s called because one time I asked Pa what it is that Procter’s always chewin an Pa’s face went all tight an it was like he didn’t wanna tell us. But then he said it’s called chaal an it’s poison to the mind an soul, an if anybody ever offers us any we’re to say no. But since we never see nobody, such a offer don’t seem too likely.

Now Lugh shakes his head. You cain’t count Procter John, he says. Nero’s got more conversation than him. I swear, Saba, if I stay here, I’ll eether go crazy or I’ll end up killin Pa. I gotta go.

I scramble around, kneel in front of him.

I’m comin with you, I says.

Of course, he says. An we’ll take Emmi with us.

I don’t think Pa ’ud let us, I says. An she wouldn’t wanna go anyways. She’d rather stay with him.

You mean you’d rather she stayed, he says. We gotta take her with us, Saba. We cain’t leave her behind.

What about . . . maybe if you was to talk to Pa, he might see sense, I says. Then we could all go to a new place together.

He won’t, Lugh says. He cain’t leave Ma.

Whaddya mean? I says. Ma’s dead.

Lugh says, What I mean is . . . him an Ma made this place together an, in his mind, she’s still here. He cain’t leave her memory, that’s what I’m sayin.

But we’re the ones still alive, I says. You an me.

An Emmi, he says. I know that. But you see how he is. It’s like we don’t exist. He don’t give two hoots fer us.

Lugh thinks fer a moment. Then he says, Love makes you weak. Carin fer somebody that much means you cain’t think straight. Look at Pa. Who’d wanna end up like him? I ain’t never gonna love nobody. It’s better that way.

I don’t say naught. Jest trace circles in the dirt with my finger.

My gut twists. Like a mean hand reached right inside me an grabbed it.

Then I says, What about me?

Yer my sister, he says. It ain’t the same.

But what if I died? You’d miss me, wouldn’t you?

Huh, he says. Fat chance of you dyin an leavin me in peace. Always followin me everywhere, drivin me nuts. Since the day we was born.

It ain’t my fault yer the tallest thing around, I says. You make a good sunshade.

Hey! He pushes me onto my back.

I push him with my foot. Hey yerself! I prop myself up on my elbows. Well, I says, would you?


Miss me.

Don’t be stupid, he says.

I kneel in front of him. He looks at me. Lugh’s got eyes as blue as the summer sky. Blue as the clearest water. Ma used to say his eyes was so blue, it made her want to sail away on ’em.

I’d miss you, I says. If you died, I’d miss you so much I’d wanna kill myself.

Don’t talk foolish, Saba.

Promise me you won’t, I says.

Won’t what?


Everybody’s gotta die one day, he says.

I reach out an touch his birthmoon tattoo. High on his right cheekbone, jest like mine, it shows how the moon looked in the sky the night we was born. It was a full moon that midwinter. That’s a rare thing. But twins born unner a full moon at the turnin of the year, that’s even rarer. Pa did the tattoos hisself, to mark us out as special.

We was eighteen year our last birthday. That must be four month ago, near enough.

When we die, I says, d’you think we’ll end up stars together, side by side?

You gotta stop thinkin like that, he says. I told you, that’s jest Pa’s nonsense.

Go on then, if you know so much, tell me what happens when you die.

I dunno. He sighs an flops back on the ground, squintin at the sky. You jest . . . stop. Yer heart don’t beat no more, you don’t breathe an then yer jest . . . gone.

An that’s it, I says.


Well that’s stupid, I says. I mean, we spend our lives doin all this . . . sleepin an eatin an fixin roofs an then it all jest . . . ends. Hardly seems worth the trouble.

Well, that’s the way it is, he says.

You . . . hey Lugh, you wouldn’t ever leave without me, would you?

Of course not, he says. But even if I did, you’d only follow me.

I will follow you . . . everywhere you go! When I say it, I make crazy eyes an a crazy face because it creeps him out when I do that. To the bottom of the lake, I says, . . . to the ends of the earth . . . to the moon . . . to the stars. . . !

Shut up! He leaps to his feet. Bet you don’t follow me to skip rocks, he says an runs off.

Hey! I yell. Wait fer me!

†    †    †

We run a fair ways out onto the dry lakebed before we find water enough to skip stones. We pass the skiff that Pa helped me an Lugh build when we was little kids. Now it lies high an dry where the shoreline used to be.

We walk till we’re outta sight of the shanty, outta sight of Pa an Emmi. The fierce noonday sun beats down an I wrap my sheema around my head so’s I don’t fry too much. I wish I took after Ma, like Lugh, but I favor Pa. It’s strange, but even with our dark hair, our skin burns if we don’t cover up.

Lugh never wears a sheema. Says they make him feel trapped an anyways the sun don’t bother him none. Not like me. When I tell him it’ll deserve him right if he drops dead from sunstroke one day, he says, well if that happens you can say I told you so. I will, too.

I find a pretty good stone right off. I rub my fingers over its flat smoothness. Feel its weight.

I got a lucky one here, I says.

Lugh hunts around to find one fer hisself. While he does it, I walk up an down on my hands. It’s about th’only thing I can do that he cain’t. He pretends he don’t care, but I know he does.

You look funny upside down, I says.

Lugh’s golden hair gleams in the sun. He wears it tied back in one long braid that reaches almost to his waist. I wear mine the same, only my hair’s black as Nero’s feathers.

His necklace catches the light. I found the little ring of shiny green glass in the landfill an threaded it on a piece of leather. I gave it to him fer our eighteen year birthday an he ain’t took it off since.

What did he give me? Nuthin. Like always.

Okay I got a good one, he calls.

I go runnin over to take a look. Not as good as mine, I says.

I’m gonna skip eight today, he says. I feel it in my bones.

In yer dreams, I says. I’m callin a seven.

I whip my arm back an send the stone skimmin over the water. It skips once, twice, three times. Four, five, six. . .

Seven! I says. Seven! Didya see that?

I cain’t hardly believe it. I ain’t never done more’n five before.

Sorry, Lugh says. I warn’t lookin. Guess you’ll hafta do it agin.

What! My best ever an you didn’t . . . you rat! You did see! Yer jest sick with jealousy. I fold my arms over my chest. Go on. Let’s see you do eight. Betcha cain’t.

He does seven. Then I do my usual five. He’s jest pullin his arm back fer another try when, outta nowhere, Nero comes swoopin down at us, cawin his head off.

Damn bird, says Lugh, he made me drop my stone. He gits on his knees to look fer it.

Go away! I says, flappin my hands at Nero. Shoo, you bad boy! Go find somebody else to—

A dustcloud’s jest appeared on the horizon. A billowin orange mountain of dust. It’s so tall, it scrapes aginst the sun. It’s movin fast. Headed straight at us.

Uh . . . Lugh, I says.

There must be somethin in my voice. He looks up sharpish. Drops the stone in his hand. Gits slowly to his feet.

Holy crap, he says.

We jest stand there. Stand an stare. We git all kinda weather here. Hotwinds, firestorms, tornadoes, an once or twice we even had snow in high summer. So I seen plenty of dust storms. But never one like this.

That’s one bastard of a cloud, I says.

We better git outta here, says Lugh.

We start to back away slow, still starin. Then, Run, Saba! Lugh yells.

He grabs my hand, yankin at me till my feet move, an then we’re runnin. Runnin fer home, fast as wolfdogs on the hunt.

I look over my shoulder an git a shock. The dustcloud’s halfways across the lake. I never seen one move so fast. We got a minute, two at most, before it’s on us.

We cain’t outrun it! I yell at Lugh. It’s comin too fast!

The shanty comes into view an we start to shout an wave our arms.

Emmi’s still ridin around on her two-wheeler.

Pa! we scream. Pa! Emmi! Dust storm!

Pa appears in the doorway. Shades his eyes with his hand. Then he makes a dash fer Emmi, snatches her an runs full pelt fer the unnerground storm cellar.

The cellar ain’t more’n fifty paces from the shanty. He hauls up the wooden door set into the ground an drops Emmi inside. He waves his arms at us, frantic.

I look back. Gasp. The great mountain of orange dust races towards us with a roar. Like a ravenous beast, gobblin the ground as it goes.

Faster, Saba! Lugh yells. He rips off his shirt an starts wrappin it around his face.

Nero! I says. I stop, look all around. Where’s Nero?

No time! Lugh grabs my wrist, pulls at me.

Pa yells somethin I cain’t hear. He climbs into the storm cellar an pulls the door to.

I cain’t leave him out here! I pull myself free. Nero! I yell. Nero!

It’s too late! Lugh says. He’ll save hisself! C’mon!

A fork of lightnin slashes down an lands with a almighty crack an hiss.

One Missus Ippi, two Missus Ippi, three—

There’s a sullen rumble of thunder.

Less’n a league! Lugh says.

Everythin goes black. The cloud’s on us. I cain’t see a thing.

Lugh! I scream.

Hang on! he yells. Don’t let go!

The next thing I know, a tingle runs across my skin. I gasp. Lugh must feel it too because he lets go my hand like he’s bin scalded.

Lightnin’s comin! he yells. Git down!

We hunker down, some ways apart. We crouch as low to the ground as we can git. My heart’s stuck in my throat.

One more time, Saba. If lightnin catches you out in the open, whaddya do?

Crouch down, head down, feet together, hands on knees. Don’t let my hands or knees touch the ground. That’s right, ain’t it, Pa?

An never lie down. Don’t ferget that, Saba, never lie down.

I hear Pa’s voice loud an clear in my head. He got struck by lightnin as a boy. Nearly got killed from not knowin the right thing to do, so he’s made damn sure we all know what to—

Crack! The darkness splits open with a bright flash an a slam boom. It sends me flyin. I bang my head aginst the ground—hard. Try to pull myself up but fall back. Dizzy. My head spins round an round. I groan.

Saba! Lugh shouts. Are y’okay?

Another flash an boom splits the darkness. I think it’s headed away from us, but I cain’t be sure, my head’s so muddled. My ears ring.

Saba! Lugh yells. Where are you?

Over here! I call out, my voice all thin an shaky. I’m here!

An then Lugh’s there, kneelin beside me an pullin me up to sit.

Are you hurt? he says. Are y’okay? He slips his arm around me, helps me to stand. My legs feel all wobbly. Did it hit you?

I . . . uh . . . it . . . knocked me offa my feet, is all, I says.

Then, as we stand there, the dark rolls away.

An the world’s turned red.

Bright red like the heart of a fire. Everythin. The ground, the sky, the shanty, me, Lugh—all red. Fine red dust fills the air, touches every single thing. A red red world. I ain’t never seen nuthin like it before.

Me an Lugh stare at each other.

Looks like the end of the world, I says. My voice sounds muffled, like I’m talkin unner a blanket.

An then, outta that red dust haze, the men on horses appear.

†    †    †

There’s five of ’em. Ridin sturdy, shaggy coat mustangs.

Even in normal times we don’t git folk passin by Silverlake, so it’s a shock to see strangers blowin in on the tail of the worst dust storm in years. The horsemen pull up near the shanty. They don’t dismount. We start over.

Let me do the talkin, Lugh says.

Four of the riders is dressed in long black robes. They got on heavy leather vests strapped over top an sheemas wrapped round their heads. They’re dusted head to foot with red earth. As we git closer, I can see the fifth man’s our neighbor, Procter John. He’s ridin his horse, Hob.

As we come in earshot, Lugh calls out, Strange kinda day fer a ride, ain’t it, Procter John?

Nobody says nuthin. Their sheemas cover the riders’ faces so’s we cain’t see their expressions.

Now we’re right up near ’em.

Procter, Lugh nods. Who’s yer friends?

Procter still says naught. Jest stares down at his hands holdin the reins.

Look, I whisper to Lugh. Blood trickles out from unner Procter John’s hat, snakes down his face.

What’s goin on here? says Lugh. Procter? By the sound of his voice, I can tell he thinks somethin ain’t right about this. Me too. My heartbeat picks up.

Is this him? says one of the men to Procter John. Golden Boy here? Is he the one born at midwinter?

Procter John don’t look up. He nods. That be him, he says in a low voice.

How many years you got, boy? the man says to Lugh.

Eighteen, says Lugh. What’s it to you anyways?

An you was fer definite born at midwinter?

Yeah. Look, what’s all this about?

I told you he’s the right one, says Procter John. I should know. I bin keepin a eye on him all this time like you told me to. Can I go now?

The man nods.

Sorry, Lugh, says Procter John, still not lookin at us. They didn’t give me no choice.

He clicks Hob an makes to leave. The man slides a bolt shooter from his robe. I know he must be movin fast, but it all seems to go so slow. He pulls the trigger an shoots Procter. Hob rears in fright. Procter slides off an lands in a heap on the ground. He don’t move.

A cold jolt runs through me. We’re in trouble. I grab Lugh’s arm. The four men start movin towards us.

Fetch Pa, Lugh says. Quick. I’ll draw ’em away from the house.

No, I says. It’s too dangerous.

Move, gawdammit!

He turns. Starts runnin back towards the lake. The men heel their horses an head after him. I run like stink fer the storm cellar, fast as my feet’ll carry me.

Pa! I yell. Pa! Come quick!

I look over my shoulder. Lugh’s halfways to the lake. The four riders is spreadin out to make a big circle. Lugh keeps runnin, but he’s caught in the middle. They start to close in, tighten up. They’re trappin him. One unhooks a rope from his saddle.

I pound my foot on the door of the storm cellar.

Pa! I scream. Pa! Open up!

The door creaks open. Pa’s head appears.

Are they here? he says. Have they come?

You seen this comin. You read it in the stars.

Four men! I says. Quick! We gotta stop ’em!

Emmi, stay here! Pa scrambles outta the cellar. They cain’t be stopped, Saba. It’s begun.

His eyes look flat. Dead.

No, I says. Don’t say that.

Now Lugh’s trapped by the circlin horsemen. He darts at a gap. They block it. He stumbles, falls, picks hisself back up agin. In the dusty red haze, it don’t look real.

Don’t jest stand here! I yell at Pa. Help me!

I dive into the shanty. Grab my crossbow, sling my quiver on my back. Grab Pa’s bolt shooter. Empty. I throw it down with a curse. Snatch up his crossbow an quiver.

I come runnin out.

Pa! I yell. They got Lugh! I grab his arm, give him a hard shake. This is real! You gotta fight!

Then it’s like he comes to life. He pulls hisself tall, his eyes spark an the Pa I remember’s back. He hauls me to him, holds me so tight I cain’t hardly breathe.

My time’s nearly up, he says quickly.

No, Pa!

Listen. I dunno what happens after this. I could only see glimpses. But they’re gonna need you, Saba. Lugh an Emmi. An there’ll be others too. Many others. Don’t give in to fear. Be strong, like I know you are. An never give up, d’you unnerstand, never. No matter what happens.

I stare at him.

I won’t, I says. I ain’t no quitter, Pa.

That’s my girl.

He takes the crossbow. Slings the quiver on his back.

Ready? he says.

Ready, I says.

We start runnin. Runnin towards Lugh an the men on horseback.

One of the riders is loopin his rope into a lasso.

Load! yells Pa. We each snatch a arrow. Load.

The roper twirls the lasso once, twice. Throws.

Aim! yells Pa.

The lasso grabs Lugh’s leg. The roper yanks on it, brings him down.

Fire! yells Pa.

We let fly. The arrows land short.

Load! Pa yells agin.

The roper an another rider leap offa their horses. They flip Lugh onto his back. One sits on him. Th’other one yanks his arms over his head, ties his wrists together, then his ankles.

Stop! says Pa. Let him go!

We’re still runnin. We take aim. One of the mounted riders turns. Sees us comin at ’em. He raises his bolt shooter. He fires.

Pa cries out. His arms fly up in the air.

Pa! I scream.

He staggers. He falls.

Pa! I throw myself down beside him. The bolt’s gone right through his heart. I grab his shoulders, pull him up. His head flops forwards.

No! I shake him. No no no no no no no! Don’t do this, Pa! You cain’t die! Please don’t die!

I give him another shake. His head lolls back.

Pa, I whisper. I’m froze. I cain’t move. He’s dead. They’ve killed my pa.

A wild rage rises up in me. Red hot. Floodin me. Chokin me. I grab my crossbow. Leap to my feet an start runnin towards the men. As I run, I load my bow.

Aaaaaah! I scream. Aaaaaaah!

I take aim. I shoot. But the red hot’s makin my hands shake so much that I shoot wild. The arrow flies wide.

A shot comes whistlin at me. Sharp pain. Right hand. I cry out. My bow flies from my hand.

I keep runnin.

I burst past the horses, throw myself at the man tyin up Lugh. We roll on the ground, over an over. I kick at him, punch at him, screamin. He pushes me off. He’s on his feet. Grabs my arm, hauls me up, slams me down. I land on my back. I gasp. Gasp. Cain’t breathe. Cain’t breathe. Cain’t git my breath.

Then. Then.

I pull myself to my feet an face ’em, swayin.

The four horsemen’s all down on the ground now. On foot. They surround Lugh. They don’t even look my way. It’s like I ain’t here. Like I don’t exist.

I hold my bleedin hand to my chest. Let him go, I says.

They don’t pay me no heed.

Lugh raises his head. Eyes wide. Face white. Terrified. Like I ain’t never seen him before.

I step closer. Take me with you, I says.

The one in charge jerks his head. They lift Lugh an sling him over one of the horses.

Please, I says. Please . . . take me with you. I won’t give you no trouble. Jest don’t leave me here without him.

They tie him to the horse. The rider holds the horse’s reins an jumps on behind one of th’other men. They start to move out in a swirl of red dust.

Lugh! I cry. I run alongside him. I gasp. Cain’t git a breath.

Lugh lifts his head. Our eyes meet. Lugh’s eyes. Blue as the summer sky. I grab his hands.

I’ll find you, I says. Wherever they take you, I swear I’ll find you.

No, he says. It’s too dangerous. Keep yerself safe. You an Emmi. Promise me you will.

They grab Hob’s rope as they pass. They’re takin him too.

They break into a canter.

I cain’t keep up. My hand slides away from Lugh’s.

Promise me, Saba, Lugh says.

I keep runnin after ’em.

I’ll find you! I scream.

They disappear into the red haze.

Lugh! I scream. Lugh! Come back!

My legs go out from unner me. I fall to my knees.

Emmi comes runnin outta the storm cellar. She stops. Stares at the hazy red world. At Procter John, lyin next to the hut. Then she sees Pa.

Pa! she screams an goes runnin towards him.

I cain’t speak. Cain’t breathe.

Lugh’s gone.


My golden heart is gone.

I kneel in the dust.

The tears roll down my face.

An a hard red rain starts to fall.

†    †    †

There’s a knife in my gut.

It twists, rips me open. With every heartbeat, it slides in a bit further. I cain’t feel such pain an live. I wrap my arms around my body, double over. My mouth opens in a silent scream.

I stay there a long time.

The rain don’t let up. Around me, the parched earth turns into a churnin sea of mud.

Look, Pa, it’s rainin.

Too late.

Nero flaps down an lands on my shoulder. Tugs at my hair.

I straighten up. Move slow. I’m numb. I don’t feel nuthin.

Git up. You got things to do.

My hand. I look at it. Seems like it’s a long ways off. Like it belongs to somebody else. The shot scraped the skin off in a long strip. It must hurt.

I stand. Make my feet move. Right. Left. So heavy. I wade through the mud to the shanty. Nero flies off to huddle unner the eaves.

Hand. Clean yer hand.

I pour water over it. Pack it with fireweed leaf an tie a cloth around it.

Pa’s dead. You gotta burn him. Set his spirit free so’s it can journey back to the stars where it come from.

I look in the wood store. There ain’t enough to build a proper pyre. But I gotta burn him.

Think. Think.

I find our little handcart. Wheel it towards the lake. Shove it through the mud till I come to where Emmi’s standin by Pa.

She’s got bare feet. She’s soaked to the skin. Her hair hangs in wet rat’s tails. They drip down her face, her neck.

She don’t move. Don’t look at me. She stares at nuthin.

I grab both her arms, give her a shake.

Pa’s dead, I says. We gotta move him.

She leans over an retches into the mud. I wait till she’s finished. She looks at me sidewise, wipes a shaky hand across her mouth. She’s cryin.

All right? I says. She nods. Take his feet, I says.

I take him unner his armpits an pull. Emmi takes his feet. Pa’s got skinnier the past six months. No rain fer so long meant food’s bin harder to find, pretty much impossible to grow.

You ain’t finished yer supper, Pa. Ain’t you hungry?

Oh, I’ve et plenty, child. Here. Share the rest out between yuz.

He knew he warn’t foolin us, but we all played along anyways.

Skinny as Pa is, he’s a grown man. Too heavy to lift fer a scrappy little girl an me. We hafta heave him, inch by inch. Em slips an slides. She don’t stop cryin. Pretty soon she’s covered head to toe in red mud.

At last we git him on the cart. Pa’s tall, so only the top half of him fits in. His legs trail out behind.

Where’s Lugh? Emmi sobs. I want Lugh.

He ain’t here, I says.

Wh-wh-where is he?

Gone, I says. Some men took him.

He’s dead, she says. You jest don’t wanna tell me. He’s dead! Lugh’s dead! He’s-dead-he’s-dead-he’s-dead-he’s-dead-he’s—

Shut up! I says.

She starts to scream. She gasps an sobs an screams an screams an screams.

Emmi! I yell. Stop it!

But she cain’t. She’s gone. Outta control.

So I slap her.

An she stops.

She gasps with shock. Takes in great shudderin breaths till she calms down. She wipes her nose on her sleeve. Looks at me. There’s a red mark on her cheek. I shouldn’t of done that. I know I shouldn’t. Lugh wouldn’t of. She’s too little to take a hit.

I’m sorry, I says. But you shouldn’t of said that. Lugh ain’t dead. Don’t ever say he is. Now hold Pa’s feet outta the mud. Use his bootlaces. It’ll be easier.

She does it.

I turn an start pullin the cart behind me. It’s hard goin in the rain an mud. Water runs into my eyes, my mouth, my ears. Mud coats my boots an I slide.

Em’s hopeless like always. She keeps fallin over, but every time she does I stop an help her up an we keep goin. At least she ain’t cryin no more. We reach the shanty. We shove an pull the cart with Pa on it inside.

The shanty walls is made from tires.

The home Pa built with his own hands is gonna be his funeral pyre. I bet he didn’t ever think of that.

Emmi helps me turn our big old wooden table upside down an we drag Pa offa the cart an lay him on the table.

I go to the chest where we keep what clothes we got, which ain’t much. When I lift the lid, the smell of dried sage rises up. I pull out Pa’s thick winter tunic an toss it to Emmi.

Tear it into strips, I says.

I lift out Lugh’s winter tunic. I bury my face in it an breathe in deep. But we put it away clean. It smells of clean cloth an sage. It don’t smell of him.

I git on with tearin it into strips.

Once we’re done, there’s a good-size pile. I dig out the jug of rootmash whisky. Pa brewed it when times was better. We soak all the cloth strips in it. Then I set Em to stuffin ’em into the walls, into the cracks between the tires. I put the rest around Pa’s body.

I start fillin my barksack with necessaries. Red gizmo knife, flint, medicine herbs, spare shirt.

The same men that killed Pa took Lugh, I says. I’m goin after ’em. I dunno where they took him. It might be a long ways from here. It might take me a while to find him. But I will. I’m gonna bring him back.

I put in a waterskin, nettlecord rope, an enough sourberry seed jerky an dried rootcakes to last us a few days. If we run out, I’ll jest hafta hunt.

They got a head start an they’re on four legs, not two, I says. I’m gonna hafta travel fast.

I collect Emmi’s waterskin, her tunic an her dogskin cloak. I don’t look at her when I says, I’m leavin you with Mercy by Crosscreek.

No, says Emmi.

I put her stuff in another barksack. Pa an Lugh told me to keep you safe, I says, an you’ll be safe there. Mercy an Ma was friends. She helped when me an Lugh was born. She came when you was born too.

I know, says Em.

What we both know but don’t say is that Mercy came too late. Emmi came early, Ma died an Mercy might as well of spared herself the trouble of a three day walk.

Mercy’s a good woman, I says. Pa always said that if anythin was to ever happen to him, we should go to her. He told me an Lugh the way to Crosscreek. She might even have a kid fer you to play with.

I don’t care, says Emmi. I’m comin with you.

You cain’t, I says. I dunno where I’m goin or how long it’ll take me. Besides, yer too little. You’ll only hold me back.

Emmi crosses her arms an sets her chin in that stubborn way she’s got. Lugh’s my brother too! she says. I got a right to look fer him, jest the same as you.

Don’t give me no trouble, Emmi. I pick up the little peg doll Pa made her an throw it in the sack. It’s fer the best. Once I find Lugh, I promise we’ll come back an git you.

No you won’t, she says. You hate me. You love Lugh an you hate me. I wish they’d took you instead!

Well they didn’t, I says. Pa an Lugh left me in charge of you an I say yer goin to Mercy’s. Let that be a end to it.

I shove Lugh’s slingshot into my belt. Tuck Pa’s knife into a sheath inside my boot. Sling my quiver an pistol crossbow on my back.

Hazy red light trickles through the small window. It lands across Pa’s face.

I kneel beside him, take his hand in mine. Emmi kneels across from me an takes his other hand. He’s still warm, she whispers.

After a little bit she says, You need to say the words now.

She’s right. You always say special words to send a dead person on their way.

Pa said some fer Ma, before he lit her funeral pyre all them years ago, but I cain’t remember what they was. Guess I was too young to take proper notice. Now it’s his turn to have words said an I cain’t think of nuthin.

Go on, says Emmi.

Then, Sorry, Pa, I says.

I didn’t mean to say that, but my mouth moved an those’re the words that come out. But I realize I am sorry. Truly.

I’m sorry yer dead, I says. I’m sorry you had it so hard here, specially the last while. Mostly I’m sorry you lost Ma when you loved her so much. I know you ain’t had no joy since she went. Well . . . now you’ll be happy. You’ll be together agin. Two stars, side by side.

I’m goin after Lugh, I says. I’m gonna git him back, Pa. I won’t rest till I find him. I promise.

I look at Em. D’you wanna . . . kiss him g’bye? I says.

She kisses him on the cheek, then I strike my flint an light the spills around his body.

Willem by Silverlake, I says, I set yer spirit free to return to its home among the stars.

The flames start to lick at the table.

G’bye, Pa, Emmi whispers. I’m gonna miss you.

We stand. I hand her the barksacks.

Go on outside, I says.

I light the spills set into the walls. I wait till the tires catch fire, till the flames start to run along the walls.

G’bye, Pa, I says.

I close the door behind me as I go.

†    †    †

The rain stops. A hot southerly starts to blow. The afternoon sun blazes down.

Nero hangs in the air above us, ridin the thermals in lazy spirals. Jest like Lugh said he would, he fled the storm an saved hisself. If only we could of done the same.

It looks like any other day. It could be yesterday, last week, a month ago. But it ain’t. This ain’t any other day.

I never knew. Didn’t know everythin could be fine one moment an then the next moment so bad that it ’ud be like the time before that moment was all a dream.

Or maybe this is the dream. A long an terrible dream about a storm an some men in black who killed Pa an took Lugh away. Maybe I’ll wake up soon. I’ll tell everybody about it an we’ll shake our heads about how strange dreams can be.

I feel a dull throb in my right hand. I look at it. There’s a cloth wrapped around it, all filthy an torn. I prod it. A sharp pain shoots along my arm. Feels real enough.

Somebody’s sayin somethin.

Saba? Emmi’s voice. Saba?


What about Procter John?

I look down. His body lies sprawled on the ground, his face twisted with pain. Guess he didn’t die right off.

I told you he’s the right one. I should know. I bin keepin an eye on him all this time like you told me to.

Leave him fer the vultures, I says.

The smell of burnin tires on the wind. My scalp prickles. Smells real enough.

I heave my barksack over my shoulder. I start walkin. I don’t look back. I ain’t ever comin back to this place agin.

Dead lake. Dead land. Dead life.


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
*"Young's powerful debut, first in the Dustlands series, is elevated above its now familiar postapocalyptic setting by an intriguing prose style and strong narrative voice that show a distinct Cormac McCarthy vibe. It's a natural for Hunger Games fans."

Publishers Weekly *STAR

Blood Red Road will capture any reader who picks it up. I love everything about Saba - her language, her intensity, her heart. Everyone should read her story.”—James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner

“I absolutely loved Blood Red Road. What a great read! Moira Young goes over the top with a most engaging heroine. Saba is a crusty, foul-tempered warrior woman who must be covered in scar tissue by the end of the book, but men still follow her around like starving wolves. The dialogue is fast and often humorous, the pace never lets up. No situation is so bad that it can't get worse in the next couple of pages. I especially liked the awakening of the hellwurms as they emerge to feed. Well done, Ms. Young!”—Nancy Farmer, author of The House of the Scorpion

“Better than The Hunger Games. . . . This book will blow you away.”—MTV’s Hollywood Crush blog

“Is it any surprise that Ridley Scott swiftly optioned the book?”—New York Times Book Review

Blood Red Road is an eerie and adventurous dystopian fantasy on par with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker.”—LA Times

Meet the Author

Moira Young is the author of Blood Red Road, the first book in The Dust Lands series, which was a Best Fiction for Young Adults selection. A native Canadian, she lives with her husband in the UK. Learn more at DustLandsBooks.com.

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Blood Red Road 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 284 reviews.
iheartyabooks More than 1 year ago
I love Dystopian novels, and Blood Red Road didn't disappoint me. This book was way more than I expected. The characters, the world, and plot were totally amazing. The different way they talk was a big plus, and it quickly pulled me into their world and made me believe it was real. Saba and her twin brother Lugh are 18. They live in Silverlake with their Pa and little sister Emmi, who is 9. Saba has never seen more than two people in her life, so when the four horseman, which are the Tonton, show up and take Lugh away, she knows she's the only one who can save him. Saba has to grow up fast and become someone she never she dreamed of becoming to save her brother. She meets Jack, who helps her find Lugh. Jack is cocky, slick, and a fast talker who's falling for Saba. The relationship that grows between Saba and Jack is a difficult and beautiful one. It stole my heart .What I also love about this book was the maturity of the characters. The story plot was strong, and I believed everything that was happening was real. I really enjoyed Blood Red Road and can say it's one of my favorite books. It's definitely going to be one of the best books of the year. I'll be counting down the days till the second book in Moira Young Dustland's series is released.
SweetPeaBubbles More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books where you either hate it, or you love it. I was anticipating for this book to be alright, but what I didn't expect was to love it as much as I did. Reasons to Read: 1. Saba Saba is actually a really interesting person to read about. She's rude, callous, and incredibly strong. Usually, people like that tend to turn me off. But for Saba, it really worked. While I said that she was fairly insensitive, I could really tell just how much she loved Lugh. From page one, he is mentioned in only the highest regards. When he was taken, I felt her pain. I could tell that the amount that because she loved Lugh so much, losing him was making her go mad. Maybe it was just me, but I when I was reading some times, she really seemed to be losing her grip on her sanity. She's completely disinterested in helping anybody else but herself, but I found that I couldn't help but like her. I mean, she had every single reason to be as hard and bitter as she was. She was a completely realistic character that I thoroughly enjoyed. 2. The Post-Apocalyptic World The world that Saba and all the other characters live in I found to be thoroughly enjoyable. After the apocalypse happens, the world is basically one big wasteland. Unlike some other novels set in the future, there wasn't really any amazing technology. Some things were different, such as a sand-surfing ship, but nothing too out of the ordinary. I really liked the way that it was explained, too. The world is really, really messed up, which I found to be a cool take. You can't really trust anyone in this world, and nobody has a reason to trust you. Everyone in this world wants something, and is working purely for themselves. 3. The Adventure If you couldn't tell from the title, Blood Red Road, this novel's main focus is Saba's journey to find her brother Lugh. While there were some delays in this journey, I thought that it was thoroughly enjoyable. There are a full range of characters out, all with unique personalities. Aside from that, the action was awesome! There were tons of battles, and fights, and chase scenes that I found to be exhilerating. I was excited, scared, and just plain frustrated throughout the entire adventure. The adventure was thoroughly enjoyable. 4. The Language This is probably the most controversial part of the book. Saba has a very thick southern-style accent, and the book is written that way. While I found it disorienting at first, I got used to it by the end of the novel. I actually really liked it, and thought it fit in really well to the story. If you don't mind reading a little bit of broken English, then I don't think that you will mind to much. Although I did love this book, the one thing that I didn't like was how there were no quotation marks around the characters' dialogues. This was a bit disorienting at times, when I thought Saba would be saying something, but it would actually just be in her thoughts. Overall though, I think that this book was really well done and exceeded by expectations.
kearytaylor More than 1 year ago
You know those books that you find and after you read them you keep thinking about them and find that you're really anxious for the next one to come out? Thankfully, thankfully, Blood Red Road was like that for me. Saba comes from a dysfunctional yet close family. Her mom passed away giving birth to her little sister and Saba hates the sister for it. The dad's gone a little loopy since the mom passed. The sister is a pretty normal winey little kid. But Lugh is perfect in Saba's eyes. He means everything to her. So when he's taken away, it pushes Saba to grow up and go after him. In the reviews I've seen of Blood Red Road, people talked about the rough way Saba talks. And it is rough, jarring, and now what you're used to reading in a novel. But I LOVED it! I found myself thinking in the language Saba used for days after I finished. It was just a raw, no nonsense way of thinking. Saba's growth in the book was wonderful. In the beginning she wasn't much more than her twin brother's shadow, always looking to him to do the right thing. And as she goes after him, she becomes a tough, quick thinking warrior. I have to say, I loved how she became known as "The Angel of Death" without giving away any spoilers. It was just great. I did have a few hang-ups with this book. The fact that there were no quotation marks around any of the dialogue drove me CRAZY! It made me pay very close attention but when I'm reading I don't want it to have to be work. There were a few twists that seemed predictable to me. And I was having really high hopes that this might be a standalone novel but the last three pages made that not possible. Now I have to wait for the next one. sigh. Overall, I really did like Blood Red Road. I would place it in my top 5 favorite books I've read in 2011 so far. I give it 4 out of 5 stars!
terilhack More than 1 year ago
Blood Red Road is the upcoming debut release from the author Moira Young. In the future there is a land covered in dust and who ever controls the chaal fields owns the people. Where the water can mean your death, and a dust storm can cover your home in seconds and swallow a city is your future dystopian hell hole. A family that has been shrouded in isolation along a dwindling lake, meets up with a hidden world of death and destruction in these amazing pages by Moira Young. We are introduced to the main character Saba, and her twin brother Lugh, just in time for their family to break up and their world views to crumble. The sands just got a whole lot bigger. Blood Red Road was amazing. The book is written as the characters talk, and it is amazing to experience the world building and character growth in Saba. Young has created something truly beautiful in this book, and I cannot wait to see what comes next from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting story but the language ruined it for me, it sounded like it was written by a six year old which made it boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely hated it. I liked the language and thought it was written well, but the plot and characters made me want to pull my hair out. The main character has to leave her home and rescue her twin brother who is the most important person in the world to her. The book tells you she is desperate to find him but she NEVER conveys any desperate emotions or actions. It never feels like she really wants to save him. I am a twin and if it was me trying to save them i would do anything and eveything to save them. I wouldnt give a **** about some a**hole boy and i am absolutely repulsed by their relationship. They hate each other and they never stop hating each other throughout the entire book but somehow they are deeply connected to each other. I also wouldnt let my other siblings get in the way of saving them either and i actually like my siblings. Each characters actions make me want to kill myself and the books development never goes anywhere. Its boring and at some pionts i had to force myself to read it. The characters at the end are supposed to be more developed but every single one of them are th same as they were at the beginning. This book doesnt convey the connection of twins at all and my twin agreed with me even though she loved the book. This book was utterly terrible and i will not be reading the next one.
Molly-H More than 1 year ago
Like most dystopian society books, when you read Blood Red Road you have to get used to the future slang and society, but in this book it isn't difficult at all. The characters were strong and the plot was fast-paced, making it hard to put down. I liked the way the central plot of her finding her brother was still more important than the developing romance between Saba and Jack, which is good because in most teen books, the romance overshadows the main plot. I would recommend this book to all of my friends, and anyone who enjoys dystopian society books. The only part that slightly bothered me in Blood Red Road was the lack of quotation, which made understanding who spoke a little difficult. Besides that, which you get used to fast, this book is stunning!
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
One thing that really grabs me about this book is dialect in it. I thought it was completely and totally unique. For me, it was the first I've seen in young adult book. The storyline of this book is great! It reminded me of Gladiator but with a girl instead. I admired Saba's strength to find her brother and fight. I loved her fighting. It showed cased not only her strength, but her angry and will to find her brother. She is a survivor. A true survivor. I loved the way her feelings were. I understood them completely. I get the same way when it comes to fighting for something you love. You don't want anything or anyone to stand in your way. And when they do, you can't fully do want to you want to do cause you are weighed down. While Saba was alone most of her life, I like that she found someone who she can not only confide in but someone to match her strength. Jack is a guy like no other. He knew how she was right from the start. He knew her weak spots and her strength. I like that when she was weak, he was strong for her and vice versa. I admire their time together. When they were together all time stopped. It was just them. Simply wonderful! The title of this book matches it exactly. It was a very bloody road that Saba had to go through in order to find her brother. Saba is truly a strong person. I rooted for her to make it all the way. It was written so good that you see everything. Feelings, the characters... even I can feel the dust blowing into my face with the hot scorching sun. Simply fantastic! *There was some cursing.*
UrbanGirlReview More than 1 year ago
I  couldn't finish Blood Red Road because honestly it was almost like a country novel trying to be a dystopia novel, it just doesn't work.  Blood Red Road was hard to read, understand, and follow the story.  Because one: the author had the characters talk like "hill billies," and second: the book was written in past tense and Saba (MC) narrates the story.  But unlike other books, Saba talks for all the other characters, telling you what everyone does and says.  That's why the story is hard to follow, because Saba is the only one ever talking.  Switching between her thoughts and emotions to her telling you what some other character said. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't get past the first ten pages. The author wrote as if she was an oakie with no literacy skills whatever. This is coming from someone whose originally from oklahoma. Her refusal to use quotation marks makes the book both annoying and difficult to interpret. If you have the tendency to get even the slightest bit annoyed about grammar, I wouldn't reccomend this book. Honestly, if you have the ability to tell where punctuation should go, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. I read the reviews and thought they were exaggerating but I promise its not. It truly is terrible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to read because of the mortifying grammer. Good ideas, bad spelling. It was soooo awful I couldent get past the 1 st chapter!!!!! TERRIBLE BOOK!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so stupid couldent get past the first few chapters TERRIBLE GRAMMER
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book for my birthday but I didn't read very far...The grammar really bugged me considering the author did NOT use quotation marks. It may be just me -considering I am a grammar freak- but I found it hard to digest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book although it takes a couple of pages for you to get used to the language used and feel for the book. But in the end it's worth it, great book. Highly recommended!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was horrible. The language killed me and I often never knew when they wete talking, thinking or acting. The plot was ok, but thats it. Dont read! Id give it zero stars if it were possible. It was not better than THG no matter what the reviews claim.
BookPortrait More than 1 year ago
Really 4.5 stars It's been a long time since I've read a dystopian novel, but Blood Red Road made for a great return to the genre. Full of surprises, obstacles to overcome, and a bit of romance, I was quickly drawn into the story and kept turning pages until the end. Saba lives in Silverlake with her twin brother Lugh, her sister Emmi, and her father. Her mother died giving birth to Emmi, and Saba has always resented that fact. Because of this, Saba has clung to Lugh, following him wherever he goes and ignoring her younger sister. When Lugh is suddenly captured by four unknown horsemen, Saba vows to stop at nothing to get him back. This quest takes her far away from Silverlake, through the Dustlands and old Wrecker settlements. Saba finds herself facing obstacles and situations she never imagined, having to fight for both what she wants and for her life. In addition, she is forced to accept help from unlikely and unwanted sources and to confront her own nature and emotions. By doing so, she will learn a great deal about life, finding her heart's desire, friendship, and love. Blood Red Road is very different from many other books I have read in its style; it is told in sparse prose, with all of the writing in dialect and no quotation marks for speech. At first I was taken aback by this, but I quickly adjusted, and I think that this style really enhanced the story. I loved watching Saba grow over the course of the story. Her initial resistance to help and anything that defied logic made for quite an interesting journey, both physically and emotionally. I also enjoyed seeing the ingenuity and resourcefulness that all of the characters displayed. The situations they face in their journey are tough, but these characters are determined to be tougher. And then there was the great tension between Saba and Jack. Their banter and increasing attraction was a wonderful addition to the story. Though there were times of slow action, this book was certainly never dull. Even though a big thread of the plot is resolved at the end of the book, there is still more of Saba's story to be told. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for her, her world, and her relationship with Jack. I'm also hoping that some of the characters we come to know in this book, such as the Free Hawks and DeMalo, will come back in the sequel. Blood Red Road might be a dystopian novel, but there is much more to the book than overthrowing a corrupt government. Moira Young has written a fabulous debut novel, and I am looking forward to reading more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crudely written... couldn't get past five pages it got worse n worse. If they fix it i will read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
2.5-3 stars My biggest issue was the no quoteation marks around dialoge this made it very hard to read and understand. I mean what does the author have against "" its a skill I perfected in 5th grade. Also along with lack of "" the way saba talked was very hard to read and got very annoying, I mean thats not how you write, one example is git instead of get. Another horrid mistake was the random New paragraphs In the middle of Dialoge But i did like the story line, just not written in the way I like
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing adventure book! Saba gets her twin brother taken away by this mysterious man and is left with her little sister to protect. She tries to leave her sister with an old friend while she goes and finds her brother, but her little sister find a way to escape and hind her. They continue their journey, only to be caught and put in cage fights. In these fights you must win, once you lose for the third time, you get put down by the crowd of people waiting to tear you apart. While she was in these fights she meets people that are planning to escape, and also a guy just may like. they escape he cage fights, but still have a long ways to go. For example, having to cross a dead river that is now filled with these moles type monsters that come out during the night, and with time ticking, its not an easy task. I don't like the book, I love it! Each time you think things are going to settle down foe a bit, a new twist comes to place. Also there is some much going on you never now what's next. This book is a cliff hanger and many ways. It has a lot of adventure and also a love story tied in it too. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the ending and how the story just stops. Other than that is a great book and I would recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A whole book of bad grammar and fake dialect - no thanks!
Ashliecat More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. I was skeptical at first, but the book's style and tone quickly enchanted me. The characters are addicting and heartwarming as well. You will not be disappointed with this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the sample but couldnt finish it, the grammer sucked it r doesnt hold your attenion like a regular book does I would not recomend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the sample and i can already tell i wouldn't get far. The way they talk and the grammar bugs me, i acctually didnt finish the sample because of that. If it was in normal grammar maybe i would consider it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ai read this book. And if I had to pick a favorite book it would tottly be my second choice (next to Divergent which is amazing) because it's just amazing I would recomend it to ANYONE !!!! It's just perfec!!!!!!!! READ IT !!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is perfect for anyone who loves adventure ,romance,and excitment