There is a price on Saba’s head. She brought down a ruthless tyrant and saved her kidnapped brother. But winning has come at a terrible cost. Saba is haunted by her past—and a new enemy is on the rise, an enemy who searches for her across the Dust Lands.
Saba needs Jack: his moonlit eyes, his reckless courage, his wild heart. But Jack has left. And her brother is haunted by ghosts of his own. Then news comes that tells her Jack can never be trusted again. Deceived and betrayed, haunted and hunted, Saba will need all of her warrior’s strength just to survive. For the enemy has cunning plans of his own…
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
IT’S LATE AFTERNOON. SINCE MORNING, THE TRAIL’S BEEN following a line of light towers. That is, the iron remains of what used to be light towers, way back in Wrecker days, time out of mind. It winds through faded, folded hills, burnt grass and prickle bush.
The flat heat of high summer beats on his head. His hat’s damp with sweat. The dust of long days coats his skin, his clothes, his boots. He tastes it when he licks his dry lips. It’s been a parched, mean road all the way. He crests a ridge, the trail dips down into a little valley and it’s suddenly, freshly green. The air is soft. Sharply sweet with the scent of the scrub pine that scatters the slopes.
Jack pulls up his horse. He breathes in. A long, deep, grateful breath. He drinks in the view. On the cleared valley floor, a small lake glints in the sun. Beside it stands a junkshack with a bark and sod roof, the rest of it cobbled together from Wrecker trash, stones, dried mud and the odd tree trunk. A man, a woman and a girl are working in the well-tended patches of cultivated land.
People. At last. Apart from the white mustang, Atlas, he hasn’t spoken to a soul for days. His aloneness was starting to weigh him down.
An there was I, he says aloud, thinkin I was th’only person on the planet.
He whistles a tune as he rides on. He calls a hello as they leave their work and come to meet him. They aren’t particularly friendly. They’ve got weary faces. Wary eyes. They’re little used to company, take little interest in the wider world and have little to say. Never mind. Just seeing them and having this awkward, mainly one-sided conversation cheers him no end.
The man’s worn out. The woman’s sick. Dying, if he’s any judge of such things. With yellowish skin, her mouth set tight against pain. The girl’s sturdy enough, fourteen or so. She stares at her boots. Silent, even when he speaks to her direct. But her plain, flat face lights with love when her brother comes running from the shack, calling her name, Nessa! Nessa!
He’s a cheerful berry of a child. A barefoot, round-eyed four-year-old called Robbie. His family gazes at him with such fond wonderment that it’s clear they can’t quite believe their good fortune. He leans against his sister’s legs, sucks his thumb energetically and sizes up Jack.
The battered, wide-brimmed hat. The silver eyes. The lean, tanned face that hasn’t seen a razor for weeks. The long, dusty coat and worn boots. The crossbow on his back, his well-stocked weapons belt—bolt shooters, longknife, bolas, slingshot.
Boo, says Jack. Robbie’s mouth drops open. His thumb falls out.
Jack growls. The boy shrieks with delight and tears off towards the lake. Nessa gives chase. The valley sings with their shouts and laughter.
They aren’t sociable people but they aren’t mean. They see to it that he and his horse are watered, washed and fed. They offer him a roof for the night, but he’s anxious to keep moving. Dusk is falling as he sets off again. They’re hard workers, early risers. They’ll be in bed as soon as he’s gone.
By his reckoning, the storm belt should be no more than three days’ travel from here. And that’s where he’s headed. The storm belt, a tavern called The Lost Cause and an old friend named Molly. He’s the bearer of bad news. The worst. The sooner he delivers it, the sooner he can turn around, retrace his steps and keep on heading west.
West. To the Big Water. Because that’s where she is. It’s where he promised to meet her.
He pulls out the stone that he wears around his neck, threaded on a leather string. It’s smooth and cool to the touch. Pale rosy pink. Shaped like a bird’s egg, a thumb’s length in size.
It’s a heartstone. It’ll lead you to your heart’s desire, so they say.
She gave it to him. He’ll head west and he’ll find her.
† † †
He’s only just left the valley when Atlas falters. Tosses his head and whickers. There’s something up ahead. Jack doesn’t stop to think. In a moment, he’s off the trail, into the scrub pine and out of sight. From the cover of the trees, his hand over the mustang’s muzzle, he watches them pass.
It’s the Tonton. Nine black-robed men and horses. They’re escorting a couple in a buffalo-cart. The commander leads the way. Four men behind him, then the cart, followed by three men on horseback. The last man, the ninth, is driving a wagon with an empty prison cage.
He studies them carefully. He knows the Tonton well. They’re rough and dirty and casually violent. A loose collection of amoral thugs who swill around the power. Only loyal to each other, only answering to a master if and when it suits them. To a man, they’re ruled by self-interest. But these ones seem different. Everything about them is clean and shiny and polished and ordered. They’re well armed. They look disciplined. Purposeful.
And that makes him uneasy. It means that the enemy have changed their game.
He checks out the couple in the cart. They’re young, strong, healthy looking. A boy and a girl, no more than sixteen or seventeen. They sit close together on the bench seat. The boy’s driving. He holds the reins in one hand. His other arm circles the girl’s waist. But there’s a gap between their bodies. They sit stiffly upright. They aren’t comfortable, that’s for sure. It’s as if they hardly know each other.
They stare straight ahead, their chins held high. They look determined. Proud, even. Obviously not prisoners of the Tonton.
The cart’s neatly packed with furniture, bedding and tools. All you’d need to set up house.
As they rattle by, the girl turns her head sharply. She stares into the trees. Almost like she senses that somebody’s there. It’s dusk and he knows he’s well hidden, but he shrinks back anyway. She keeps on looking until they’ve gone past the woods. No one—not the Tonton, not the boy sitting beside her—seems to notice.
Jack gets a clear view of her forehead. The boy’s too. They’ve been branded. And not long ago. The circle, quartered, in the middle of their foreheads looks raw and sore.
They’re headed into the valley. Towards the homestead. With an empty prison wagon.
Now he’s more than uneasy. He’s worried.
Keeping to the trees, leading his horse, he turns around and follows them.
† † †
From the wood at the top of the valley, as darkness begins to fall, he has a clear view of the homestead he’s just left. The Tonton are already entering the shack.
He has to stop his feet from moving towards them. Halt his hand as it reaches for his bow. Because the survivor in him knows that this is a done deal. Whatever’s about to happen, he can’t stop it.
But he can bear witness. He will bear witness. With clenched fists and a rising rage, he watches what happens below.
By now they’ve roused the family from their beds. The weary man and woman, their children, Nessa and Robbie. Flushed them out at the point of a firestick. They huddle together in the fading light while the Tonton commander makes a short speech. Probably telling them what’s going to happen and why. Words to frighten and confuse people already too frightened and confused to properly listen.
Jack wonders why he bothers. It must be procedure.
The young branded couple wait in the cart, ready to move into their new home. A land grab. A resettlement party. That’s what this is about.
Everybody looks small from up here. Doll-sized. He can’t hear what’s said, not the words. But he can hear the alarm in the raised voices of the family. The girl, Nessa, falls to her knees. Pleading with them, holding her brother tight. One of them takes Robbie while two others grab her by the arms. They move towards the prison cart. She struggles, yelling, looking back at her parents.
They shoot them at the same time. Husband and wife. A bolt through the forehead and their bodies crumple to the ground.
Nessa screams. And this time, Jack does hear. Run, Robbie! she screams. Run!
The little boy kicks and wriggles in the Tonton’s arms. He bites his hand. The man cries out and drops him. Robbie’s free. He runs through the fields, as fast as he can, while his sister yells to go faster. But it’s summer and the crops are high and he’s only four years old.
The commander shouts orders. One man starts after the little boy. Too late. The eager new settler is out of the wagon. Aiming his firestick. He shoots. Robbie drops in his tracks. The wheatgrass folds around him.
The commander’s lost control of the situation. It should have gone smoothly. But it’s chaos. As he and the settler yell blame at each other, Nessa begins to scream. Her high-pitched wail of grief and rage shivers Jack’s skin.
Her shirt has been torn. The men laugh as she tries to cover herself, weeping, screaming, lashing out. They pin her hands behind her. One of them touches her roughly.
The commander sees it. He moves fast. He shoots his man through the head.
Somehow, in all the confusion, Nessa gets hold of a bolt shooter. She shoves it in her mouth and pulls the trigger.
Jack turns away. He leans his head against the white horse’s neck, drawing in deep breaths. Atlas shifts uneasily.
What a mess. A botched job. They were obviously supposed to take Nessa and Robbie, young and healthy, and kill the sickly parents. Instead, all dead.
The Tonton have changed their game all right. He’d heard rumors of land grabs and resettlement months ago. But not this far west, never this far west. They’re rolling over the land like the plague.
If this is Tonton territory, then so is the storm belt. And that means Molly’s in danger.
Now he’s more than worried. He’s afraid.
† † †
Jack leaves the trail. It isn’t safe.
He and Atlas travel east along unknown roads. The going’s hard and unfriendly. Dark, stony ways, never warmed by the sun and seldom used. He spots the odd traveler in the distance—a moving dot in the landscape—but they must be as keen-eyed and eager as he to pass without notice because that’s as close as anybody ever gets. He hurries, resting for an hour here, two hours there. He has plenty of time to think about what he saw.
The Tonton. Most recently, the private army of Vicar Pinch: madman, drug lord and self-styled King of the World. Now dead.
They defeated the Tonton at Pine Top Hill. He and Saba and Ike, with the help of Maev, her Free Hawk girl warriors and their road raider allies. And Saba killed Vicar Pinch. But they didn’t wipe out the Tonton. They didn’t kill every last one. Even if they had, he’s lived long enough, he’s seen enough to know that you can’t kill all the badness in the world. You cut it down in front of you only to find that it’s standing right behind you.
The Tonton are most definitely still standing. But different now. They’ve always been scruffy, grubby even, with long hair and full beards. These were clean-shaven, with short, cropped hair. Their robes were clean. Their boots, too, and all their gear. Their horses were groomed, with shining coats. A new clean-look Tonton.
Not quite clean enough. The operation back at the valley went badly wrong. The commander didn’t have control of his men. They were slow to obey him. And the way that one roughed up Nessa showed that some of them still want to play by the old rules. But the commander shot him. Fast. Without hesitation. Message delivered loud and clear to anybody else who might be thinking that way. New game. New rules. No second chances.
The little green valley. A good patch of land. Shelter. Clean water. The Tonton kill the sick wife and the worn-out husband. And if it had gone according to plan, they would have taken Robbie and his sister. Both young and healthy. But where would they have taken them to? Where did the boy and girl in the cart, the resettlers, come from? Maybe they’d been snatched from their families too. But they certainly seemed willing enough. More than willing. The boy joined in with the clearance, took matters into his own hands.
The quartered circle brand on their foreheads means something. In Hopetown, the Tonton branded the whores with a W, but he’s never heard of anything else like that. Branding marks you out permanently. Shows what group you belong to.
Healthy young people, branded. Territory expansion. Grabbing the good land and the clean water. Control of resources. A new, more disciplined Tonton carrying out orders. But whose orders? Somebody higher up. Somebody working to a larger plan. A man with a plan.
Such a man would have to be powerful. He’d have to be determined, disciplined, persuasive and very, very smart.
Jack knows of only one such man. A Tonton. He was Vicar Pinch’s second in command. The power behind the throne. He rode away from Pine Top Hill before the battle even started. He abandoned his mad master, leaving him to his fate without a backwards glance. And he took a number of men with him.
All of this must been rolling out for some time. To get to this point, it has to have been well under way while Vicar Pinch was still alive. Alive but toothless. DeMalo must have been building up his operation on the side. That would explain the rumors Jack started to hear a couple of years ago. From the little he knows of the man, that he’s seen for himself, he can tell that DeMalo isn’t the type to go for a bloody overthrow.
He’s much more subtle. He’s the stiletto in the dark. The poison in the drink. He’ll have been biding his time, waiting for the right moment. Jack can imagine the tiny inward smile DeMalo must have allowed himself when he realized they were about to do his dirty work for him at Pine Top Hill.
The main thing is, he got his plan rolling out of sight and earshot of Pinch. He couldn’t have done that without somehow winning the continued loyalty and silence of his Tonton followers.
Unheard of. Very interesting. Very worrying.
Jack would give a great deal to know exactly what DeMalo’s up to. Where. How. And why.
The sooner he gets to The Lost Cause, the better.
† † †
The tavern stands at the crossroads ahead. It crouches low, hugging the ground. A shabby heap of a place, alone on the dry, wide plain, ringed in by black, brooding peaks.
The Lost Cause. At last.
Thanks to the route he took to avoid any chance of meeting the Tonton, it’s taken him a week of hard travel to get here. Much longer than he’d expected.
It’s just before dawn. Dawn and dusk, show time here in the storm belt. He checks the sky above. Right on time, ugly brown clouds are piling up over the plain. They scud in from all directions, tumbling and tripping in their haste. There’s a mighty blast brewing. A sulphate storm.
Atlas tosses his head, dances a bit. Jack heels him on. Once they reach the tavern, he jumps down and settles him in the stables. The only other horse there is Prue, Molly’s reddish longcoat mare. There’s fresh fodder in the bin and water in the trough. That’s a relief at least. All this time, he’s been worried that he’d find the place had been torched by the Tonton. Still, the stable’s usually full of customers’ mounts: mules, horses, and the odd camel.
As he walks towards the door, the tavern sign creaks in the rising wind. The paint’s flaking and faded, but he can just make out the tiny boat foundering on an angry sea, about to be swamped by a huge wave. Every time he’s been here, he’s half-expected to find that boat gone. Sunk to the bottom of the sea.
The Lost Cause. Never was a name more suited to a place. A pile of Wrecker junk a rat wouldn’t sniff at. Tattered shreds of who-knows-what. Battered bits of this and that. It looks like a heavy sigh would do for it. But it’s been here forever. Long years. Way before the weather changed and the storms moved in. When this was a grassy, green plain with life in plenty.
Even then, it was a well-known hooch and whores joint. But once Molly’s family became landlords, it became notorious. Four generations of Pratts made it the only stop in this part of the world. Famous brawls, rogues plotting mischief in corners, the hectic jangle of music, drink rough enough to numb your hair, and bad girls of all persuasions. He wonders if Lilith’s still working the room. She must be knocking on a bit.
He’s never known The Lost Cause to be closed, day or night. Molly’s likely to be awake, even at this hour. She’s an early riser. Gets by on four hours of sleep with a catnap in the afternoon. She might even be working the bar.
Jack pauses outside the door. His stomach’s jittery with nerves. He’s pondered, over and over again, what he’s going to say to her. How he’s going to tell her about Ike. And he still doesn’t know. He’s never had to do this before. He’ll just have to hope the right words come to him.
To buy himself a moment or two, he knocks the dust from his hat. Flicks the pigeon feather stuck in the band. A little smile quirks his lips as he remembers the fuss Emmi made, choosing the perfect feather to beautify his battered old hat. He puts it back on. Tilts it to a jaunty angle.
He takes a deep breath. He opens the door. He goes in.
† † †
Molly’s behind the bar. She’s drying hoochers. The rusty, dented drinking tins and pots look even more harmful than the last time he was here. She’s working her way through a stack of them, like she’s got a crowd of thirsty drinkers waiting. He’s the only punter.
She looks up. She can’t hide the little start of surprise. The quick flash of joy that chases over her face. And something else, too. Relief. Then, just as quickly, it’s gone. The mask’s back in place. The heard-it-all smile. The seen-it-all eyes.
They’ve got history together, he and Molly. And it goes deep. But that joy wasn’t for him. Never for him the wild, hot joy he caught a glimpse of just now. No. She thinks Ike’s with him. He swallows around the sudden tightness in his throat.
Well, well, she drawls, look what the wind blew in.
She goes back to her work. Her long tangle of blonde curly hair’s tied back in a tail. She’s got distracting lips. Dangerous curves. Direct eyes. Traveling men make wide detours just to be in the same room as her. That’s the most that even the best of them can hope for.
Molly Pratt, he says. Remind me, what’s a heavenly creature like you doin in a dump like this?
Servin rotgut to scoundrels like you, she says. An if you call my place a dump agin, I’ll bar you.
You barred me the last time, he says, an the time before that, an the time before the time before that. Remember?
Oh, I remember, she says. Well, step in, don’t be shy. Yer hangin back like a virgin on her weddin night. Siddown, have a drink, pull up a stool fer Ike. Where is he? Settlin the horses?
He doesn’t answer. He’ll work his way up to what he’s got to say. Have a drink or three first. Wait for the right moment. He goes to the bar, grabbing a couple of stick stools on the way. He settles himself, slinging his bark saddlesack on the floor, dumping his weapons belt on the bar. There’s sand everywhere. Piled in the corners. Drifting around his feet in the draughts from the door.
There’s bad stuff goin on out there, Molly, he says.
Welcome to New Eden, she says. It’s a brand new shiny world.
A bloody world, you mean, he says.
It’s always bin a bloody world, she says. Only nowadays, some people’s blood is better than others.
What’s the news? he says. The Tonton sure ain’t what they was. What about the man in charge? You ever hear the name DeMalo?
She shakes her head. He’s called the Pathfinder, she says. The landgrabbers–pardon me, Stewards of the Earth–they breathe his name like he ain’t even human. They say he makes miracles. That he’s here to heal the earth.
You shouldn’t be here, he says. It ain’t safe.
Well, it’s true, she says, the Tonton don’t like hooch an they don’t like whores. My, how times’ve changed. But them bastards got bigger things on their mind than this place. Storm belt land’s no good to ’em. I let Lilith an th’other girls go an, as you can see, I ain’t ezzackly overrun with customers. No whores, not much hooch, they ain’t gonna bother with me.
You don’t know that, he says. You need to leave, Molly.
This is my home, Jack, she says. My business. I had it since I was fifteen. My father had it before me an he got it from his father. I bin dealin with hard-nosed sonsabitches my whole life.
I seen ’em, Molly, I seen ’em in action, he says. Are you willin to give yer life fer this place? Fer this?
It’ll never come to that, she says. An if it does, I can take care of myself.
Well, you shouldn’t be here by yerself, he says. When did the girls go?
A while back, she says. It’s fine, me takin chances on my own account, but not them.
Something about the way she says it makes his eyes narrow. What’re you up to? he says.
Leave it, she says. This line of conversation is now closed. She shoves an overflowing, rusty tin at him. There’s a dead beetle floating on top.
Drink up, she says. No charge fer the bug. I better pour one fer Ike. You boys must be parched.
While she fills another hoocher and he fishes out the beetle, she glances towards the door. What’s keepin him? Oh, don’t tell me, I know. Hidin behind his horse. Ain’t it jest like him, sendin you ahead to scout out the enemy while he waits fer the all clear. I’ll be back in three months, he tells me, three months, Molly, I give you my word, an then I ain’t never gonna leave yer side agin. Three months, my aunt patootie. Try three years, ten months an six days. I said it to you then, Jack, an I’ll say it to you now: do not step through my door agin unless yer bringin Ike back to make a honest woman of me, ferever an ever amen. If you do, I’ll shove you in the still an boil you into bad likker. Did I say that to you or did I not?
You did, he says.
An ain’t I a woman who keeps her word?
Well then, she says.
He throws down his drink. Gasps as it hits his throat. That’s unspeakable, he says, when he can speak. What is it?
Wormwood whisky, she says. Brewed last Tuesday. It keeps off bedbugs, lice an flies. Good fer saddle itch too. The last man to try it ran outta here on all fours, howlin like a wolfdog.
Yer gonna kill somebody one of these days, he says.
Who says I didn’t already? What the hell’s keepin that man? She asks like she couldn’t care less. But her eyes say different.
One more drink, then he’ll tell her. He shoves the hoocher at her. Keep it comin, he says.
Help yerself, she says.
She’s busy checking her reflection in the shard of looking glass she keeps behind the bar. She pinches her cheeks, bites her lips, and fiddles with her hair, all the while shooting little looks towards the door. Twenty nine, but like a nervous girl, waiting for the one who makes her heart beat faster. To see her so makes his own heart squeeze tight.
He drinks. Nerves twist his stomach. Go on, he tells himself, do it. Tell her now. But he finds himself saying, I swear, Molly, every time I see you, yer more beautiful than the last time. How many hearts you broke today?
Shut up, she says, I know I’m a hag. He snorts with disbelief and she smiles at herself in the glass, pleased. Livin in this dump is playin merry hell with my looks, she says. I’ve grown old, waitin on Ike. The Lost Cause. That’s me all right, Jack, the biggest lost cause ever lived. An you know why? Fer thinkin that man might ever mean what he says. Ike Twelvetrees settle down? You might as well ask the sun to stop shinin.
Now. Tell her now. Molly, says Jack, there’s somethin I—
Oh, enough about Ike. He’ll show his face when he’s worked up his nerve. She leans her elbows on the bar. What’s this sorry-lookin object? She flicks the brim of his hat. It tumbles to the floor. That’s better, she says. Damn you, Jack, yer a handsome devil an no mistake. You an them moonlight eyes of yers.
Listen. Molly. I, uh—
D’you ever think about her? Molly says it abruptly.
He doesn’t answer. He stares into his drink.
She’d be six by now, she says. I know it’s stupid, but . . . I like to imagine how she’d be. What kind of character, y’know. Who she might take after. She had eyes jest like yers. She was beautiful, wasn’t she?
Yeah, he says. She sure was.
He takes her hand in both of his. Holds it tight and kisses it. They look at each other. The air between them lies heavy with what was. With what had never really been, but still would always bind them together.
Jack? She’s peering at him closely, searchingly. She draws back to stare at him, like something about him’s suddenly struck her. Ohmigawd, Jack. You got somethin to tell me.
He breathes out. Yeah, he says. Yeah, I do. The thing is, Molly . . . I, uh—
Well, I’ll be damned! she says. There’s a slow smile creeping across her face.
He frowns. Molly?
Ha ha! I don’t believe it! She slaps her hand on the bar. Gawdammit an hallelujah, Jack, who is she?
What? What’re you talkin about?
Don’t gimme the run around, I know you too well. Who is she? Who’s the girl? Molly spots the leather string hanging around his neck. An what’s this? She gives a tug and pulls out the heartstone, hidden inside his shirt.
Molly gazes at it. A heartstone, she says. She looks at him with wondering eyes. She gave you a heartstone.
Maybe I found it, he says.
Oh no, she says. I can see her in yer face, Jack. I can see her in yer eyes.
I dunno what yer talkin about, he says.
Hey, she says, it’s me, remember? You an me don’t pretend. We’re past that. All the time I’ve knowed you, Jack, you kept the door to that heart of yers locked up tight an the key hid away. Looks like she found it.
He says nothing. Molly waits. Then:
Keys ain’t her style, he says. She kicked the door down.
You love her, says Molly.
Oh, I dunno about that, he says. I, uh . . . huh. That sounds too safe. This don’t feel safe.
Oh. Like that, is it?
I don’t want this, Molly, he says. I . . . whatever it is, I sure didn’t go lookin fer it.
You don’t hafta, she says. If it’s meant to be, it’ll find you. We like to think we’re in charge of our own lives, but we ain’t. Not really. You should know that by now.
You couldn’t find nobody more pig-headed if you tried, he says. An she’s always thinkin she knows best, even when she don’t, especially when she don’t. She’s prickly an stubborn an everythin you’d put at the bottom of a list if you was makin a . . . a list of that kind. Which I ain’t. I didn’t.
But? says Molly.
But ohmigawd Molly, she shines so bright, he says. The fire of life burns so strong in her. I never realized till I met her . . . I bin cold my whole life, Moll.
I know, she says softly.
It’s jest that . . . aw, hell. She thinks I’m a better man than I really am.
Well, yer a better man than you think you are, she says.
She’s too young, he says. Eighteen.
Scandalous! she says. Cuz yer so old.
Age ain’t about years an you know it, he says. Anyways, settin so much store in one person . . . it’s dangerous.
Don’t you dare walk away from this, Jack, don’t you dare, Molly says fiercely. Most people don’t ever feel what yer feelin. Be with her. An if it lasts one hour, one night, a week, a month, it don’t matter. Be with her, burn with her, shine with her . . . fer whatever time’s given to you. Now. Tell me her name. Tell me.
He takes a deep breath. Saba, he says. Her name’s Saba.
Molly rests a hand on his face. Oh, my darlin Jack, she says. This . . . this is what I wanted fer you. All I ever wanted fer you. How could she resist them eyes?
She tried, says Jack. Man, did she try. But . . . listen, Molly, that ain’t why I—
A celebration! she cries. This calls fer some serious drinkin! An I mean serious!
She laughs as she slams hoochers down, setting them out in a long line across the bar. Where the hell is Ike? Ike! she hollers. Gawdammit, man, git yer hairy hide in here this minute! We’re drinkin to Jack an Saba! She starts to pour, splashing and spilling everywhere. I tell you, Jack, yer a inspiration. I’m gonna rename this place. No more Lost Cause, oh no. Not this place an sure as hell not me. From this moment on, it’s gonna be called The Hope Springs Eternal! An when Ike walks through that door—after I finish kissin him to death—I’m gonna tie him to that chair an never let him go, cuz life’s too gawdamn short an it’s about time I started takin my own advice. I might need yer help, of course, but I’m sure you won’t mind, seein how—
Molly! Jack grabs her hand. Stop, Molly, please. Dammit, Moll. Ike ain’t gonna walk through the door.
She goes still. Very still. Her smile fades. Please don’t say it, she whispers.
He can’t bear to. But he has to.
Ike’s dead, he says. He’s dead, Molly. I’m sorry.
Tears flood her eyes. Spill silently down her face. She looks at him straight.
It was a month ago, he says. No . . . a bit more. There was a . . . it was a big fight. A real one this time, not jest some tavern brawl. The Tonton.
The Tonton, she says.
We went back to Freedom Fields, he says. We burned the chaal fields. They came after us an . . . not jest me an Ike, but Saba too, an some others. We fought ’em, Molly. We beat ’em. An fer a time, fer . . . a little while, the good guys was on top. Me an Ike, the good guys. Who’d of thought it?
Me, she says. I would. I know.
He was with friends, Moll, says Jack. I was with him. I was right there an . . . he died in my arms. He died well. He went out big. The way he would of wanted to. The last thing I said to him, I . . . whispered in his ear. Molly loves you, Ike. That was the last thing he heard.
She stands there a moment. She nods once. Slides her hand free of his. I’m glad it was you told me, she says. Don’t waste no more time, Jack. Go to her. Be with her. Burn bright. Promise me.
Leave here, he says. Come with me. Please.
Promise me, she says.
I promise, he says.
G’bye, Jack. She kisses him on the cheek. Then she slips through the door into the back room and closes it behind her.
Silence. She must be holding something over her mouth so’s not to make any noise. She might as well let go and have a good howl. He’s the only one here. He goes around the bar and knocks on the door.
Molly? No answer. He was comin back to you, Molly, he says. He loved you.
Go away, she says.
I cain’t leave you like this, he says. Let me in.
Fergawdsake, jest do what I say! she cries.
He goes back to his stool. He looks at the full hoochers lined up along the bar and starts on the first one. He knows how Molly grieves. Once he’s gone, she’ll lock the place up. Then she’ll cry some and drink some. And she’ll do that, over and over again, until the skin over this latest wound has grown tough enough for her to carry on.
He’ll wait till the storm passes. Then he’ll go. He pulls the heartstone out again. Rubs it between his fingers. It’s cool, even though it’s been next to his skin. That’s the way of a heartstone. Cool until you get close to your heart’s desire. The closer you get, the hotter it burns. The last time he saw Saba, she put it around his neck. It was hot.
It’ll help you to find me, she’d said.
I don’t need no stone to find you, he’d said. I’d find you anywhere.
Then she’d kissed him. Till he couldn’t think. Till he was dizzy with wanting her.
He slips the stone back into his shirt.
The storm hits. He hears the sudden, dull thunder of sulphate raining down on The Lost Cause. Soon enough, the rain will follow and wash it away.
The door slams open. The wind wails inside, rattling the rafters, stirring the sand on the floor, plucking at his coat. He gets up to close it.
Two men walk in. They’re spattered with sulphate. Leather body armor. Crossbows. Bolt shooters. Long black robes. Long hair. Beards.
Tonton. Old-style. Danger.
Every nerve, every muscle in Jack’s body snaps tight and starts to fizz. But he keeps his voice casual as he says, The place is empty, fellas. Looks like everybody cleared off.
I come to see that Lilith, says one. Where is she?
Gone, says Jack, like I said. Check fer yerself.
The Tonton stares at him a moment. He crosses to a door in the corner. It leads to a hallway with four small rooms off it, where the girls used to do business. He goes through, yelling, Lilith! Hey, Lilith! Git on out here! There’s the sound of doors being slammed open, one after another.
One Tonton out of the way. Jack’s eyes flick to the bar. His weapons belt lies there.
A quick move and the other Tonton’s got his bolt shooter out and aimed at Jack. It was the work of a second. He goes to the bar and drains one of the full hoochers. His gaze never leaves Jack. His shooter stays aimed.
The first Tonton comes back out. Where’d she go? he says.
I dunno, friend, says Jack. Like I said, there ain’t nobody here.
Just then, Molly lets out a cry. A long, keening, animal wail of pain.
As it dies down, the one with the drink says, So who’s that?
He and Jack stare at each other.
Leave her alone, says Jack.
The Tonton points his bolt shooter at Jack’s heart. Lazily. He smiles.
Call her, he says. Go on . . . friend. Call her.
What People are Saying About This
Readers will be champing at the bit to get to the conclusion of this poetic, action-packed trilogy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was so pumped for this sequel, you have no idea. Unfortunately, after reading this, I felt disappointed and angry. I loved Saba in Blood Red Road. I thought she was a great heroine. Strong, smart, witty..now I feel as if her personality just whittled away before my eyes. She became weak, indecisive, impulsive, a bit crazy and somewhat a slut. I did NOT expect the latter from her AT ALL. Ms Young, what are you doing? Those bits with De'Malo and Tommo, COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. Maev, Bram...all those other people, why plague us like that? Why make us dislike Saba? Whats the point of reading the book if you dont like the protagonist? I cannot understand. The book ended without anything being accomplished. What was the point? Sure they found out a few things but they didnt even get what they came for- what Saba dragged them there for. I just, I dont know whats going on. The novel was just all over the place - Saba was all over the place. Tommo was so random I just, I just CANT. Ugh, my favorite character in the novel was the goddamned bird, Nero!!!!!!! Hopefully the next novel will be better. 3.2 stars.
I was extremely excited for this sequel but I was utterly disappointed. Saba and Lugh have become completely different characters then they were in Blood Red Road. Saba was a strong, hardheaded, warrior especially when battling in The Cage. What has happened to her!? She becomes weak and honestly insufferable. It was almost painful to finishes this book. Also Lughs character has become disappointing. The entire seven with DeMalo has completely ruined Saba for me. Honestly for whoever hasn't bought this book yet DO NOT BUY IT!
Rebel Heart is an exceptional sequel to Blood Red Road. Not only is Saba battling her longing desire to be with Jack but also her inner torment of sacrificing her friend. Lugh becomes prominent in this novel and it is evident that he no longer knows what to do when he realizes just how tough Saba had become in his absence. He fights to keep control and keep his family safe. Saba becomes somewhat erratic when she is overwhelmed, that is especially evident in the scene with DeMalo after she found out about the fate of Emmi and Jack. Overall this novel is great and well worth the wait! I liked the introduction of DeMalo/Seth as a real character but I really wish there was more of Jack in the book. The ending is great and will leave you wanting more. I comend Moira Young for writing these amazingly detailed and captivating stories and encourage her to please hurry with the next one!
This book is the best. The series over all is better than the hunger games! I can't wait for the next book. I never want this series to end!
I like this book almost as much as i liked the last one,but it does seem like the auther changed directions a little though. I knew as soon as she killed her freind on the roof in the end of the last book she was going to have a lot of touble with that in the next book, but she had a little more touble than i expected. In the first book i wasnt all that happy about the dream being a vision, but then in this book it happens again alot. There's a lot of dreaming in this book. Saba changes alot in this book, but she's still the same Saba. Lugh is very different in this book he's got some problems but theyre understandable. Jack is just as much of a mystery to me as he was before and again i dont trust him Seth ive always loved that name and i love the character too. I dont know how i really feel about him. I think he's telling the truth, but i dont think hes telling whole truth. I dont trust him but i really like him and i just have to quote him "are you killing me, saba?" When he said that i just wanted to stay there and explain. Read this book i thought it was worth my time. It's worth reading again!
I am still debating my rating of this book. I’m not even entirely sure what I just read. It’s predecessor, Blood Red Road, is one of my all-time favorite books, so naturally I was excited to read a sequel, despite feeling that it worked well as a stand-alone. Now, after reading Rebel Heart, I wish that Moira Young had left well enough alone. The writing itself isn’t bad. I enjoy the unique dialect that Saba and the rest of the inhabitants of her world speak in. It fits the story and world so much better than a traditional writing style ever could. It’s simple without being simplistic. The vivid descriptions made it easy for me to visualize the brutal environment and the action-packed, fast-pace of the novel kept me reading even when I was screaming in rage at everything else. If I can say nothing else positive about the story, I can say that there is never a dull moment. My problem with the book is the characters and the complete and utter lack of growth for any of them. Saba is definitely flawed. Selfish, stubborn, and very often unlikable, she is also loyal and brave. She loves deeply and blindly and all of these traits were what made me fall in love with her originally. However the likable traits are almost non-existent in this follow up. Saba seems to have changed completely between the two books. The change in character also happens about mid-way through this book, a complete and utter 180 that had my head spinning. She makes so many bad choices in the later half of this book, choices that seemed utterly inconsistent with the Saba that I knew from the first book, that the love I had for her was killed entirely. Generally I have no problems with flawed characters making bad choices. They are usually my favorites. Unfortunately many of Saba’s actions make no sense to me and its impossible for me to accept what I don’t understand. The plot itself is also chaotic and much of what happens seems to be pointless and unnecessary. There is no real explanation of why DeMalo is so obsessed with Saba and why he believes that the two of them are the key to changing everything. I also feel like the whole plot line centered around Jack’s ”betrayal” is ridiculously cliched and I found it impossible to believe that Saba would fall for it, making her later actions all the more frustrating and uncharacteristic. I can’t even began to describe how enraging and out-of-character I find her involvement with DeMalo to be, especially considering how everyone she does care about is fighting against what he is trying to do to their world. Honestly I’m not sure that I’ll read the final book. I’ll always have a deep love for Blood Red Road, but so much of where Young took this story has completely ruined my enjoyment of it overall.
This book is if you ask me perfect it keeps me going ,its my energy like a car needs gasoline i need this book its -WOW i demand Young to make this next book in a hurry ,and mrs Young please make sure Seth is a good guy and all the hurt and pain he feels is soon gone I dont like him being hurt it makes my heart break .This book really deserves a1,000,000 stars IT'S AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Loved it as much as the first. Saba is tough as hell. Lugh too. Not enough Jack. DeMalo sexy as hell, I know I'm not supposed to like him, but I do. Must read. Can not wait for the final book.
I felt that the second book in this series was very intruiging. The relationship between lugh and saba is definately clashing, and i hope in the third book that they will both make amends with one another and share that very poignant relationship that they once had. I was quite appalled by what occurred between demalo and saba- i wasn't expecting her to feel the need of trusting him because she believed that jack betrayed and decieved her. Based on her personality, she is way more superior than that.
Let me start by saying that i was a little nervous about reading this book. I had read some of the reviews prior to reading it. I loved blood red road so i was a little bummed by some of the reviews saying It wasent as good as the first book. I m sooo glad it read this book. Everyone has their own opion but i loved this book. The thing about reading is that we all get to experience books in our own way. For me i thought it was awsome. I cant wait for book 3. I love the whole saba/jack/demalo thing. All though demalo has a really warped way of doing things i can see why saba did what she did. And of course who who doesnt love jack. At least it keeps things interesting
This book was extremely good i wish they turn the series into a movie i love the fact that the author purposely didnt use the best grammer when i rea dother books im just like uggghh punctuation i like how its in Sabas point o fview she describes everything just wonderfully one of my favorite books read it HURRY WITH THE NEXT BOOK!!
This book was all over the place. In the long run, nothing was accomplished. Saba became a weak, flighty, and unable to make decisions. What happened to the girl who won battles in The Cage and saved her brother? I also dislike what Lugh has become. This book was a disappointment.
Blood Red Road was an excellent addition to the dystopian genre. I was curious as to were the story might go next because it seemed like things had been solved in the first book. But, I was hooked and would follow the series no matter were it might go. The first thing is it really does take determination to read this series. Saba has an extremely difficult voice. I remember that from the first one, but it really took some time to get use to what she was trying to convey. It's kind of like reading a story in another language that you aren't exactly fluent in. But, I fell into the rhythm of it and was suck in. I really felt sorry for Saba in this book. She did this big heroic thing in the last book, but she's back to defending her thoughts and actions. According to everyone else, she doing things for all the wrong reasons. She makes rash decisions and is constantly putting other's in danger. She should only trust her family and no one else is worth it. For this alone, I really disliked Lugh. I get that something horrible happened to him while he was in captivity. But, he needs to stop and see what he's doing to her. He may be her twin, but he no longer understand her. Everything he said about Saba, I felt more directly applied to him. It really made me want to reach through the pages and knock some sense into him. Saba really tries to work around to the voice of her brother. She tries to leave by herself to keep them out of danger. She seems to have little regard for her own safety, just a stark determination to save those she loves. But to accomplish these tasks, she beings to realize there is much more at stake here. All of a sudden it's not just about her, but about the whole country. There is a major event that occurs in this story that really left me reeling. I think there's some greater force at work there that Saba left herself open to. I'm curious how it will play out in the future book. It can't be good.
Definitely not as good as the first book. I ended up only liking the animals in this book and not the actual characters, especially Saba and Lugh. Saba just made me so frustrated throughout the entire book. Not only that, but be prepared for lots of repetition in this book. She repeats her dreams for pages on end when totaled together and what a character just said a page before will also be repeated at least twice more in italics. The whole thing with Jack seemed pretty predictable and Lugh made me furious every time he opened his mouth. The ending didn't seem much as a resolution to me, not even a cliffhanger, just a scene that didn't have a lot of significance at all. I loved the first one, not so much the second.
The Road Gets Longer, Rougher . . . After having been blown away by Moira Young's BLOOD RED ROAD, I was most anxious to tackle REBEL HEART, the second book in the DUST LANDS series. The wait was well worth it. Once again, Young managed to snag this reader by the throat with her unusual variation of "prose." But there was no "dragging" required. Putting the book down is, in fact, the challenge. This is storytelling in its purest form and yet Young's skills continue to blow me away. "My mind sniffs at the problem. Licks at it, nibbles it, tears it apart. Over and over till it's like there's somebody shoutin at the top of their voice inside my head." The Mad Maxian world reveals itself a bit more as we continue this journey through the ravages of what once was and what is coming/promised/destined. Saba. Jack. Lugh, Molly. Em. Tommo. Maev. Love 'em all. And their struggles. What I found incredible was how Young managed to twist this reader into tender feelings for the bad guy. I can't wait to see where this story is headed. But don't write faster, Ms. Young. Just keep doin what your doin.
Ok im not even halfway through the book and im wondering what the heck is going on i mean this novel is all over the place. The author has gone in a tottaly diferent direction. I had to skip to the end to see if it was even worth finishing and after seeing the end im not so sure but i paid for the book so........ hopefully the next book will be better.
Trust me their is going to a lot of *gasp* "OH MY GOSH, THIS CANT BE HAPPENING!" .... so trust me DO REAAD!
i love this book so much. this book is one of those book when you want to know what happens in the end, it keeps you going. one of this book when you finally finish it your going to wish it never had. and when you have finished it you still going to think about it.
Awsome ten times more
I'm....unsure...i guess on how to describe my feelings for this book. It was Great...because it was the second to an already awesome book. It was also kind of dull, a lot of traveling and feelings and dreams, not as much action as the first book. The plot was frustrating to me but i think that's just my own preference. All in all it was a good book, but IF there is a third book i'm not AS excited to read it after reading this one. I'll read it, but it'll be with some trepedation.
I loved the first book. Saba is a great protagonist, albeit sullen and cranky. I was looking forward to the brother so loved by her; Lugh. Now that I'm getting to know him in the second book, I am thoroughly disappointed. What a self-centered jerk. The way he treats Saba is deplorable. Especially after she sacrificed so much to rescue him. Honestly, she should have just left him to burn on the sacrificial pyre. Im also pretty disappointed with how weak willed Saba seems to have become. I feel like this book has turned into Lugh mansplaining everything when it was Saba who tracked him down and survived slavery without his "leadership" in the first place. So far, I'm not to impressed. But I'm only half way so I'm holding out hope. Will update when I finish.
**Spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned** First, it’s recommended you read Blood Red Road before you jump into this one. It starts off a little later in the storyline but it’s best to get your background information so you can better understand the second one of the series. I notice with the second book of almost every series I’ve read, they hit a bump in the plotline and it either goes very well, or sometimes it goes not so good, or terribly bad. In this case, it went a little lackluster. However it wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. I suppose sometimes it’s hard to live up to the how high the bar is set when the first novel was written and released. As readers, we expect the same kind of emotional excitement. So what I notice is a trend in the second book of the series as well, the main character always, (almost always) have their emo moments. This brings the plot down and establishes a lull and you’re left with this mopey character who’s on a complete pity trip while things are hitting the fan everyone around them. For crying out loud Saba. Seriously? I did not expect this from you. Sure, we’re all entitled our own moments but what ever happened to the pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and carry on motto? We need more of that instead of ‘woe is me the world is against me, I can’t take this anymore’ sort of thinking. So I’d have to say this aspect of the novel, I didn’t like so much. I wasn’t expecting Saba to meet DeMalo so soon in the series. But oh my goodness he’s bloody insane. His way of thinking of his purpose makes you want to slug him one but you understand given the circumstances and the living conditions of the setting, yeah. It’s enough to make you go completely batshit crazy and think of these things as a way of survival or a way of life in order to make things ‘better’. What baffles me is….she ends up sleeping with him and just wow….seriously? Sleeping with the enemy doesn’t give you any bonus points here Saba darling. So...why? Just why? Don’t give me this emotional fragility crap. That’s getting old and useless. The pace of the plot is noticeably slower given that perhaps this second book is going to be geared towards character development. Lugh’s still a twit and he wasn’t that likable in the first place - plus you feel like asking what the heck his problem is because he’s just so filled with resentment and anger. Jack is hardly anywhere in the book. He disappears and doesn’t interact with Saba. Still a mystery character with no answers. Sort of made me wonder, then why was he mentioned so much in the first one, to have no place in this one? Frustrating considering he played a big part and his character was one of the most likable in the story. So overall, it’s okay. Second books in series always go through ruts and patches. I’m reading through this series because I really did like the first one and I’ll finish this one hoping the ending will go with an awesome bang so I can forget Rebel Heart.
I have really enjoyed this series so far. The author paints a captivating future world that sucks you in.
Saba gets into too much trouble with her friends and family
the thing with deMalo and Saba just absolutely hurt me and disgusted me.. i can't believe i was so quick to lose faith in Jack, and so was Saba... unbelievable... I HATE deMalo. what a monster. and at the beginning i actually fell for his lies deception just like Saba did. OMG......nooooooo