Book Two of the Dust Lands trilogy
By Moira Young
Available now from Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
I cannot begin to imagine how people who have been eagerly waiting to read REBEL HEART will react to it. I finished BLOOD RED ROAD and REBEL HEART back to back and enjoyed the both, but I have a feeling other people might be more attached to certain aspects of BLOOD RED ROAD.
REBEL HEART opens not too long after BLOOD RED ROAD ended. (Hint: I'm going to talk about how BLOOD RED ROAD ended.) Jack's gone east to tell Molly Parker about Ike's death. Meanwhile, Saba, Lugh, Emmi, and Tommo are going west where there is supposed to be a well-watered land. Saba's not on top of her game, suffering from the choice she made to mercy kill one of her friends. (I may have the cardinal points wrong, because I am terrible with directions, fictional or non.) The first scene is through Jack's point of view, letting the reader know he's in trouble with the Tontons before shifting back to Saba.
I love the flow of Saba's thoughts. Moira Young writes her voice with a poetic cadence. I'm not too big on the deliberate misspellings, but they aren't a terrible distraction. I do dislike that Saba acts almost exactly as she does in BLOOD RED ROAD. She tries to make it on her own; her companions follow. She's surprised they're following her into danger; they prove that they're making their own decision and want to help. (Lamely, someone tries to blame her for the bad things that happen to some of those following her. Saba very explicitly tries to quest alone because it isn't safe.)
The other characters are quite swell, so I'm glad laser-focused Saba can't quite leave them behind. There are several new additions to the cast that I enjoyed as well. Obviously, since Saba is going after Jack in REBEL HEART, he appears onscreen much less. I don't miss him much as I find their love story kind of blah. I was more into it by the end of BLOOD RED ROAD, once Jack and Saba had spent some time together, but there's just something bland about Jack. I think I might like him more if he weren't so involved in the love story. He might not appear much in REBEL HEART, but he gets at least one really cool moment.
REBEL HEART does offer more information about Saba's world, as well as the plans of the Tontons under the leadership of DeMalo. DeMalo is a terrific villain, especially with his weird staring thing. I liked that he can seem somewhat sympathetic, despite the obvious evil of ordering the old and ill killed because they aren't fit settlers of the land. Young isn't afraid to shy away from a little moral complexity.
REBEL HEART puts a great many threads in place for the final book of the Dust Lands trilogy. There's the question of Lugh and what exactly happened to him while he was imprisoned. There's the question of the land and who will rule it - and how. There's the question of Saba and what she'll choose to fight for. There are other questions to be answered too, but I don't think I can list them without spoiling things.
I'm not a big dystopian reader, but I find the Dust Lands trilogy compelling. And there isn't much sense of the world before, so I can easily read it as a fantasy quest series. It fits easily into that genre. And I love that it stars a girl who rescues boys. Saba is an amazing character. She's a simple person who wants simple things. But she'll go to extraordinary lengths to achieve her goals. I can't wait to see how her story finishes.