There are books, and there are epics, Dustlands is an epic. The final story in the Blood Red Road series finds Saba, Lugh, Ellie and the remaining Free Hawks and eager to cause DeMalo and the Ton Ton some trouble after the epic battle at Resurrection. Their reduced numbers means that Saba and her allies have a new strategy, guerilla fighting, however when their first act kills not only Ton Tons and Stewards, bu innocents, Saba starts to believe in a different path.
Her ideas about rights for all to live in New Eden where there is good land are further shaped by an encounter with DeMalo and her secret meetings with Jack, presumed dead by the others. It’s not easy being a warrior princess who no longer believes that violence will lead to the goal she wants to achieve. It’s even harder to sort out what to do when her hearstone reveals her intense feelings for the two strong male figures in her life. Add to that the coldness between her and Lugh, her beloved twin, and the awkwardness between her and lovesick Tommo and it’s no wonder she is heavily sleep deprived. Being a leader is a difficult and often thankless task, much is expected of one, and much is criticized.
There is a style to this series reminiscent of a Western, which is funny because I have never been a big fan of westerns. The feel is that of a century or more ago, yet Saba’s world is the future. It’s the earth after the Wreckers, us, destroyed it with our technology. This is handled so subtly in the story, such as one of the refuges being an old bowling alley, that I forget this is not a story of the past, but the future. It’s that feeling of an old Western that is partially responsible for that epic feel, but it’s also the portrayal of Saba herself, like the sheriff of old who strides into town with a white gallon hat to set everything to rights, dispensing justice and fairness to the townspeople. However, this heroine is also very human, and a girl, and her realistic struggles to live up to people’s expectations is what I enjoyed most about her.
It’s the flawed person who makes the best hero a story because it shows that succeeding isn’t easy and we admire them all the more for it. Saba also has to face the consequences of her actions and decisions, and in this final chapter, those consequences prove devastating, but again it takes some tragedy to create a true epic.
More than just a gripping and entertaining read, this is the type of story that makes you think hard and grapple with the bigger questions such as do the ends justify the means? What is the birthright of all citizens? Is there a place for the weak in society? When, if ever, is violence justified? How do you create a society? Most of all, Dustlands makes us hope that inside of all of us resides someone who can take up the mantle of leadership if called upon.