In the vein of The Outsiders and the early Western novels of Elmore Leonard, this inventive debut novel, a cross between the cult classic Mad Max movie series and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, blends adrenaline-fueled action with an improbable yet tender romance to offer a rich and vivid portrayal of misfits and loners forced together in their struggle for a better life. Adam Stone wants freedom and peace. He wants a chance to escape Blackwater, the dust-bowl desert town he grew up in. Most of all, he wants the beautiful Sadie Blood. Alongside Sadie and the dangerous outsider Kane, Adam will ride the Blackwater Trail in a brutal race that will test them all, body and soul. Only the strongest will survive. The prize? A one-way ticket to Sky-Base and unimaginable luxury. And for a chance at this new life, Adam will risk everything.
What I loved: The pacing reminded me of The Hunger Games. Short chapters and high energy scenes kept me turning the pages quickly.
Adam Stone himself is a an admirable character. Despite growing up in a world where people die by the age of sixty, he's loyal and cared about people. He seems to pick up strays, even though he tells himself he's a lone wolf. Adam also suffers from these blackout incidents, which I believe show his repressed anger.
There's a plot twist that is very interesting, and totally unexpected (as plot twists should be).
What left me wanting: I'm not a fan of certain tropes. For instance, even in a dystopian desert world, Native-influenced tribes are still magical figures. This is seen in the novel through the Nakoda people. They're said to be cannibals and witches, but after Adam and team's encounter with them, a different side is revealed.
The Strong Girl becomes vulnerable when it comes to the protagonist. Sadie Blood is a really cool heroine. She is described as tough as nails, but still the most beautiful girl in Adam's world. The love story that develops comes seemingly out of nowhere on Sadie's part. Towards the end, she's used more like a pawn to make Adam "grow up" and call himself into action.
I enjoyed that the winner of the race is unexpected. I also felt torn between who I wanted to actually win!
Stone Rider is a fast paced adventure. In a desert world where the only chance to be free is to ride, Adam Stone finds a new definition of freedom. Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Mad Max Fury Road.