Published by Marion Lloyd Books/Scholastic
Moira Young's debut work is more of an event than a mere novel. It's epic, dramatic, thrilling; and while it's early days, it stands a good chance of being one of the best works of young adult fiction this year. Set in a violent future and written in powerful prose, Blood Red Rose is an outstanding start for one of the most talented new voices to appear in the world of teen fiction in a while.
The opening section is a gripping example of what focused fiction can do. We are dropped immediately into an ugly and desolate world. But Young is careful not to reveal where we are straight away. Instead she focuses on 18 year-old Saba and the lonely desperation of the place where she lives.
Saba has lived her whole life in Silverlake, an arid wasteland plagued by violent sandstorms. She lives in complete isolation with her father, her adored twin brother, Lugh, and her little sister, Emmi. To exist, the family scavenges on landfills left behind by the Wreckers, a long-vanished civilisation. Their only neighbour is miles away, and Saba doesn't know what lies beyond their shack. Life is back-breakingly harsh, but she knows no other.
But events are about to change dramatically and Saba will be forced into the terrible and desperate world outside the one she knows.
One day, a monster storm blows over Silverlake, and in its aftermath, four masked horseman attack Saba's home. Her father is killed and Lugh is kidnapped. Saba's world is shattered. There is only one thing left for her to do: she must venture into whatever lies beyond Silverlake, find Lugh and bring him back.
Leaving little Emmi behind with her dead mother's friend, Saba arms herself with her crossbow and sets off into a cruel and unpredictable world. Helped by her intelligent pet crow, she ventures into the desert where thirst, thieves and murderers lurk behind the sand dunes.
But she is tricked and captured, and dragged off to the settlement of Hopetown where she is forced to become a cage-fighter. Saba learns a lot about herself in a very short time, and she is determined to do what it takes to survive and find her beloved brother.
Blood Red Road, epic in scope and power, is told in a minimalist writing style and is packed with violent action. If readers are looking for a new heroine, they will find her in Saba, a fierce fighter, determined survivor and ruthless opponent. She is a thrilling creation, and hopefully this will not be her only adventure.
Young adult novels of the scope and originality of Blood Red Road don't come along very often, and Young is to be celebrated for this outstanding first novel. Apparently veteran Hollywood director Ridley Scott has already optioned the book and is planning to make it into a movie. Read this novel and you will see why Scott has been so quick off the mark.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com