I hardly expected to like this book, let alone love it. Dialect really does annoy the ever-lovin heck out of me. It's distracting, unpleasant, gives me a headache and slows me down as a reader. Basically, it's torture, plain and simple. Well, apparently, it can be done right. Moira Young has proved that and left me speechless, so it's a good thing I'm typing my review rather than vlogging it. I don't quite know precisely why her dialect works so much better, but I am plum grateful for sure that she didn't put apostrophes in place of every dropped g (ex. runnin, fightin, etc). By the end of the book, I didn't even have to work to process the text; I was completely sucked into the story, something that's never happened to me with dialect before.
Writing in dialect was not the only bold stylistic choice Moira Young made, and it's not even the boldest. She made the really odd decision not to use quotation marks. There are none in this book. However, that's not because there's no dialogue; in fact, there's plenty of it.. She doesn't mark the dialogue in any way, except by he says or I says, but even those aren't on every bit of dialogue. Rarely did I have any issue distinguishing dialogue from narration. The fact that she did this and the result emerged easily comprehensible speaks volumes to her massive talent.
This novel has some of the best characterization I have ever encountered. There is not a single character in this book that's around for more than a page that doesn't feel just as real as you or me. Their personalities are all distinct and vibrant. They leap off the page or, perhaps, pull you into the pages to spend time with them. The story had to be told with dialect, because that's who the characters are. They don't know how to read or write; they only know how to speak and that's how most people talk in this strange post-apocalytpic world.
Speaking to that, I have no clue what happened to the world, none at all. Either we're somewhere out west near a lot of deserts or something's happened to cause less rain, because most everything is arid, parched, harsh. What technology exists comes from the time before. Knowledge has been lost. Few people are familiar with book learning, and I suspect fewer still will in a couple of generations.
In case that wasn't bad enough, there's also an evil, crazy king, whose mission in life is to take over this dusty world. Guys, let me tell you: he is creepy as all hell, like Louis, the Sun King, meets Henry VIII and his festering wounds. GROSS. Plus, he has his troops, the Tontons (which I have to try really hard not to picture as tauntauns - they're people). More mysteriously, there's his right-hand man, DeMalo, handsome and haughty. There's something to him and I want to know more.
At the beginning of Blood Red Road, Saba doesn't know hardly anyone but her family. In her whole life, she's met just three other people. She's not bothered though, because that's just how life is. There's her pa, who claims to be able to read the stars, her twin brother Lugh, the light of her life, and her little sister Emmi, who she hates for having caused their mother's death (childbirth). Saba doesn't start out as an especially likable character. She hero-worships her brother and is a right terror to her sister, so much so that even I thought she was being seriously awful.
Men on horseback show up, kidnap Lugh, kill her Pa, and ride away, leaving her behind with a useless sister and desert land. She has no purpose in life but to rescue her brother. As she goes, she keeps trying to leave her sister behind (with good people to look after her) but Emmi, just as stubborn as her sister, is having none of it. Along the way, as mentioned in the blurb, Saba picks up more people, like Jack and the Free Hawks, a badass group of women.
Though I want to leave most everything for you to experience on your own, I just have to comment on the perfection that is the evolution of relationships in this book. Saba's relationship with her sister changes ever so slowly, the character arc so believable. So too is Saba's slow evolution to being able to trust people that aren't Lugh. Then, there's the romance, which made my toes curl. Saba, not being trusting, has no desire for romance and fights it just like she fights anyone who tries to kill her or hurt Lugh. This allows for a perfect slow burn. She and Jack have amazing chemistry; I just love the way he teases her. *swoons*
If Moira Young can make me love a book written in dialect, the same could happen to you. If you like post-apocalytpic novels at all, do not miss out on this one. You would be cheating yourself of serious awesomeness.