Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Series: Dust Lands #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: Galley Grab
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother, Lugh, is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives bearing four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on a quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside, 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. 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.
Saba is such an amazing character. She's fleshed out and real and honest. She's got strengths and weaknesses that remind the reader of her humanity. Her love for her twin brother Lugh is crystal clear. But we also see her strong feelings of resentment toward her little sister, Emmi. And both are believable. And I can't help but sympathize with her on both fronts, even though I see that she's being unfair. She doesn't want any distractions from her mission to get Lugh back, but she's met with obstacle after obstacle and never gives up her hope or her mission. I love her for her strengths and weaknesses, both. Emmi is also a great character, and I was surprised to come across her because she isn't even mentioned in the synopsis, though she plays quite a large role in the book, and I love the complexities and growth of her relationship with Saba. And Jack. I adore Jack, though he's still a little bit of a mystery to me. He's just the sort of lovable rogue that I live to find in stories. The relationship that forms between Jack and Saba is one that I really like. It's got ups and downs and cutes and loathsomes and compliments and insults. It's fun and frustrating, both. The Free Hawks that Saba befriends are badass, as is Jack's buddy, Ike. They're not as prominent as the other characters, development- wise, but they still have depth and I grew to like and appreciate them a great deal.
I love the setting. It's composed mostly of desert and dried up rivers and lakes. But there's also scrubby forests, mountains, shanty towns and cities that are only vast, empty skeletons of their former selves. The world building is done really well, and it's easy to imagine all of these places that Saba travels through and the people who inhabit some of them. It has a sort of western feel, which is only enhanced by the dialect of the characters, and when mixed with a post-apocalyptic wasteland the setting has a vibe similar to that of something like The Book of Eli movie with Denzel Washington or The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
The plot moves quickly. Saba is placed into one situation after another, but, with the traveling and other times when she must wait before she can act, there's also a good bit of room for character and relationship development. The action and development scenes are perfectly placed to keep the story moving along while also keeping the reader interested in the characters themselves. The ending gives readers resolution with the promise of more to come, which is just how I like it in a series.
I've been putting this review off because I love this book so much and have been having troubles trying to explain exactly why I feel like it just works, especially to those who are afraid they'll be put off by the writing style. So yeah, in case you skipped to the last paragraph to see the summary - I know some of you do that! I do it, too, so I won't judge: I love it. Five stars.