You know, I lament how 2013 was such a dry spell for me, reading-wise, but I think I can appreciate the distance it has given me now. There is a point when one becomes so immersed in something, be it a hobby or a genre or whatever, that you kind of lose the taste for it (after all, if we ate chocolate every day, we'd eventually get sick of it.)
Looking back on my old review of Blood Red Road, most of my objections towards it seem more like a by-product of my overall frustration with the genre, and not much to do with the story itself which, as I said back then, is pretty solid. The same objections could have been applied for the sequel, but I find myself having quite a lot more patience with the plot and with the characters than I used to.
That said, I don't think my love of this book is entirely based on "there's a lot worse out there." In fact, Rebel Heart has confirmed for me what I already knew - that the Dustlands series is awesome, and in large that's because it has an awesome cast of characters. And when I have a spare moment, I think I'm going to re-read Blood Red Road, which for a blogger is a pretty big deal.
I love Moira Young's writing. There seems to be a split among readers on whether the dialect and the phonetic spelling is distracting or not, but I immerse myself quite easily and it added something extra to my experience.
But the real strength of this book is the characterization, and not just of Saba, but everyone involved. It really carries the narrative through, because in terms of plot, this story is pretty straightforward - Saba goes west, doesn't get along with her brother, gets a message from Jack, races back, stuff happens. That's pretty much the barest bones of the plot, but the hook is in the specifics - how Saba and Lugh interact after being apart for so long, how each of them tries to cope with their pain, how the world around them is changing and they can either change with it or they can be swept away by the tide... you know, complex stuff.
In fact, complex is a word to describe the character transformations of nearly everyone in this book. I don't think I've been nearly this frustrated with fictional people since... well, since Scrivener's Moon (appropriate, since the first time I saw Philip Reeve, it was on a joined event with Moira Young.) Some of Saba's actions really can't be rationalized, but I found myself sympathizing with her more often than not, and angry with other characters for being so tough on her. Despite the dystopian setting, this is one of those stories that feel like they could have happened in real life.
The complexity extends to everyone - Emmi and Jack and Maev and DeMalo. Especially DeMalo, whom I personally despise but whose relationship to Saba is understandably conflicted and complex. I especially liked how the heartstone from the first book was used here - not so much as a plot device or a useful shorthand, but more as a metaphor for the changes Saba is going through and her growing awareness of the complexities of the world.
And that cliffhanger.... ugh! (Okay, maybe not entirely a cliffhanger, but still!) When is Raging Star coming out again?
Note: Image via BookLikes.