Apocalypse plus positive Trudi review (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…) equals irresistible read. She was right, it was high on the addiction scale; once I sat down to devote attention to it, I read until I ran out of pages.
The short form: a pair of fraternal twins, their younger sister and their worn-out
pa father are scraping by in the the dustbowl of the 20s some apocalypse time in the future. They are miles from neighbors, except one who drinks a little too much moonshine char or whatever it is. Ma is dead, of course, from birthin’ little Emmi. Lugh is the light of Saba’s life, while poor little Emmi exists to be a target for her resentment for stealin’ ma away. One day a giant red dust storm blows in, followed by four evil horseman and the neighbor. They steal Lugh away, and stubborn Saba goes after him.
Despite dialect prose of someone who has never had book learnin’, I was soon captured by the stark setting and the fast moving plot. The focus is strictly on Saba and her experiences, and Saba is not one to ask many questions about her life or the way things are, so readers who want a thoughtful analysis of this destitute world will be disappointed. She more-or-less accepts the givens and works around them to achieve her objective. With the exception of her twin brother, she has very little emotional connection to anything. This makes for a strange dissociation, and a narrator who has more than a little to learn about empathy, emotion and caring. She also has a lot to learn about the negative side of people skills as well–understanding deception and manipulation–Young cleverly explores both aspects of Saba’s deficit. Her indifference to Emmi’s feelings show in every interaction. As the story develops, one of the joys is seeing Saba discover her care for her sister and willingness to accept her as a person.
Saba sets off across the wasteland, discovers past towns under shifting dunes of sand, and confronts a land-ship. In the edge-of-civilization Shantytown, she is forced to fight for her life, and I admire the way Young was able to walk a fine balance between survival and the horror of having to defeat other captured girls in the process. She meets a male scoundrel in the prison-yard, and is strangely drawn to him.
[PLOT EVENTS FOLLOW: Further adventures include escape from Shantytown (and in the tradition of the best heroes, burning the pool of scum to the ground as she escapes), temporary refuge in the Amazon camp, and setting across another waste inhabited by sand-worms to get to the drug fields were Lugh is being kept. END SPOILERS]
Young has a marvelous vision of the post-apocalyptic landscape; as in all quest books, a significant part of the fun is the journey. Of course, there are more than a few hints dropped in this book to pave the way for the next–a common symptom in sequelitis. Why can’t authors trust the strength of their world and their characters?
There is a background romance here, but the socially-impaired Saba is slow to recognize her feelings as well as the concerns of others. For me, that’s all to the benefit in a young-adult novel; there only so much longing and angst I can take. Don’t shoot me, kids, but I have to confess that the romance reminded me of The Ladies of Missalonghi by Miss Colleen of the Thornbirds fame (see, that’s how old I am). It honestly reminded me of a sweet, old-fashioned fake-hate romance, based on the Shakespeare kind with that couple I never saw–the one that has to do with the shrewish woman and the devoted guy who tames her. Maybe that’s one reason this book transcends generations so well–it took a traditional theme, a quest story, and girrl-powered it up with female initiative, fighting and determination. Still, I feel like the romance piece kind of detracted from it. Oh, if only she could just admit she lurved him!
Still, I like it, and I love the band of merry Amazons even more, even if they don’t know how to set a perimeter.
Three-n-halve stars. Brave heroine, emotional reconciliation with sisters and kickin’ booty. Surely a movie waiting to be made.