THE second novel in Canadian-born Moira Young’s Dust Lands young adult trilogy doesn’t live to the expectations promised by the exciting first book.
In the first novel, 2011’s Blood Red Road, we met teenage Saba. She lives with her father, sister and brother in Silverlake, a region in the post-apocalyptic world. Her father is murdered by the Tonton, ruthless rulers, who also take her twin brother, Lugh. She sets off on a quest to rescue him with her scrawny, bratty sister, Emmi.
Similar to what happens to protagonist Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Saba is forced to fight in an arena called the Cage against other female teenagers. If you lose three times, you die; you have to run into the audience — run the gauntlet — and they rip you apart.
In the end, Saba rescues Lugh with the help of the Free Hawks, a group of female warriors.
In Rebel Heart, the siblings are trying to settle out west to get away from the Tonton. Saba starts having dreams and visions of Epona, one of the Free Hawks she shot and killed (with her bow and arrow, like Katniss) because the Tonton were chasing her and they both knew she was going to die.
Young creates an ominous atmosphere. The world is a desert filled with small towns and not very many people. You have to walk for a long time to find signs of life. At one point, Saba has to take a scary road; she’s warned that "He who take it, rarely make it."
Saba is also trying to reconnect with Jack, her kind-of boyfriend (although they don’t call it that in a post-apocalyptic world) who helps Saba and the Free Hawks save Lugh in the first novel.
Rebel Heart is less like The Hunger Games than the first book. Unfortunately, it is also more confusing and has less action. In Blood Red Road, there were lots of fights and gore. In this one, there’s more planning and walking places.
There are a slew of characters and most of them are pointless. For example, Cassie is a girl who accompanies the main characters on their quest to rescue Emmi (who has been captured by the Tonton, of which Jack is now a member). They could have done everything without her; she contributes nothing to the story.
The story feels like a build-up to the next book. There’s more anticipation than actual plot. Young doesn’t stay with one storyline for too long and it feels rushed.
You couldn’t read Rebel Heart as a stand-alone; you won’t know what’s going on (actually, you still might not know what’s going on).
As in Blood Red Road, Young has the characters talk as if grammar was lost after the apocalypse, and there are no quotation marks. ("We’re caught in this land of death an bones, when we should be livin it rich out west. Makin a new life fer ourselfs.") It makes the characters sound stupid, so it’s hard to like them — and it’s hard to read.
Young touches on the fact that something bad happened to Lugh when he was with the Tonton, but she never addresses it directly. It would have made the story more interesting and it seems like an important factor of the trilogy.
Readers will probably want to pick up the next novel in the series because they’ll be expecting more action and drama. Hopefully, the third book will tie up loose ends and the stories will get closure.
Jake Hannah Tuesday is a Grade 9 student at Tec Voc High School.