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Monday, May 12, 2014

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1) by Moira Young plot summary

Saba- main character, teenage girl of 18
Lugh- Saba's fraternal twin brother
Pa (Willem)- pretty self explanatory isn't it? Saba's father and a bit of a fortune teller
Emmi- Saba's 9 year old sister
Ma (Allis)- Saba's mother who died while giving birth to Emmi
Nero- Saba's pet crow
Proctor John- Saba's family's closest neighbor
Mercy- another of Saba's family's neighbor and her mom's best friend
Tracker- Mercy's dog
Tonton- bodyguards, spies, assassin's, a type of small army who works for the King
Wreckers- the people who lived before Saba's family's generation (this would be somewhere near our present day)
Maev, Ash, and Epona- the main leaders of the FreeHawks
Nudd- Mercy's horse
Rooster- Mrs. Pinch's husband
Miz Pinch- a woman who captures Saba to be a cage fighter and works for the Cage Master, although since he's scared of her it's more like she's the one in charge
DeMalo- a Tonton guard with telepathy capabilities, described as having jet black eyes and "beautiful". The King's second in command
The King (Vicar)- owner of all the land in the vicinity, including Hopetown.
Helen- Saba's cellmate and friend
Mad Dog- head guard over the cage fighters
Ike- Jacks friend who runs a tavern
Tommo- Ikes adopted 
Jack- Saba's love interest, no age mentioned but assumed to be in his 20's

     This book is written in first person from Saba's perspective.  It begins with her telling us a bit about her family (which I pretty well covered in the character list above), and the fact that a traveler came to their home on Silverlake once and showed her father how to read the stars and see the future.  Saba says her father gives her and Lugh weird looks sometimes and she wishes he would tell them what future he sees for them.
    The way I picture Silverlake is like a cross between Colorodo and Arizona.  Colorado in that Saba talks about valleys and large lakes (hence Silverlake), but Arizona in that Saba talks about everything starting to dry up and become desert-like since they haven't had any rain in over six months.
     Saba and Lugh are working on fixing the roof to their shanty because the strong hotwinds have broken it again when their father asks Lugh to come help him with his "rain spell".  Lugh confronts their father and says his spells and star reading are just in his head and don't do any good. Saba goes after Lugh when he stalks off and they make plans to leave, since they've never seen the world outside Silverlake anyways.
      After chastising Saba for not being nice enough to Emmi (she blames Emmi for their mom's death since she died giving childbirth) and some friendly sibling banter they head to the lake to skip rocks and cool down for a while from the argument.
     They soon see a huge dust storm coming and run for home and the storm cellar.  Pa and Emmi make it but Lugh and Saba don't. Lightning strikes right next to Saba and knocks her down.  As the dust storm moves over them Saba and Lugh realize all the dust is red and see 4 horsemen and Proctor John come into view. The 4 men are all wearing long black cloaks ( I don't know why, but I picture them as the ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings).
     Saba and Lugh are in shock since Silverlake is by no means a populated area and the only visitor they ever get is Proctor John, who their father doesn't like because he chews "chaal", a drug that is similar to chewing tobacco but more addictive and makes you a bit crazy and amped up like a harder drug would.
      One of the horsemen asks Proctor if Lugh is the boy born at midwinter and he verifies that Lugh is.  Proctor apologizes to Lugh (even though he and Saba have no idea what for) and he turns his horse to leave.  One of the horsemen shoots and kills Proctor.  Lugh tells Saba to run to Pa and Emmi and he runs the other way.  Saba sees the horsemen take Lugh, and Pa tells her that his time is nearly up, but he's seen glimpses of what's going to happen and Emmi and Lugh are going to need her very much.
     Saba and her Pa run after the horsemen who have captured Lugh and begin shooting at them with their crossbows.  One of the horsemen shoots Pa and kills him.  Saba vows that she will find Lugh no matter where they take him. After the horsemen are gone, Saba and Emmi burn their pa's body in the shanty and Saba decides to leave Emmi with their neighbor Mercy, who was their Ma and Pa's friend, while she goes to find Lugh.
     They set off knowing they won't ever be coming back to Silverlake.  It's here that I think I should mention just how deep Saba's hatred of Emmi runs.  She's very mean to her and even considers leaving her on the way to Mercy because she is going too slow (the poor kid's only 9 and is doing her best to keep up and not complain.  She even wears horrible sores on her feet that go almost to bone and doesn't say anything because she's afraid Saba will yell at her since that's the only time Saba even seems to talk to her).  The only reason Saba doesn't leave her isn't out of pity, but because she made a promise to Lugh before the horsemen took him that she would take care of Emmi.
     Once Saba sees the sores on Emmi's feet she makes a kind of sling to drag Emmi on.  They continue heading to Crosscreek where Mercy lives.
     Their 2nd day on the path (only one small trail runs in and out of Silverlake; that's how unpopulated this area is) Saba is watching the hoofprints left behind by the horsemen as they head to Crosscreek and sees that they veer off over a huge expanse of desert.  Saba realizes this is Sandsea, though she's only heard of it before.
     They finally make it to Crosscreek after 5 days.  Saba says it's the most beautiful place she's ever seen.  Very peaceful with green grass and running creek water.  She wonders why their Pa never brought them here since Silverlake was drying up and dying.
     After explaining the situation to Mercy, Mercy agrees to keep Emmi while Saba searches for Lugh.  After they have a nice dinner, Mercy tells Emmi and Saba about the night their mom died.  Mercy was supposed to be coming to help their Ma deliver Emmi, as she had done with Saba and Lugh,  but she didn't make it fast enough and only got there in time to save Emmi.
     Saba begins to regret blaming Emmi for their Ma's death after talking with Mercy, since she realizes it's not really Emmi's fault.
     Saba asks Mercy why their Pa didn't bring them to Crosscreek after the land started drying up and all the animals left, and Mercy tells her it's because he was trying to hide them.  She then tells Saba the story of her and Lugh's birth.  She says a traveler who was passing through named Trask was taken in for a few days by her parents since they saw that he was starved and his clothes were all torn.  The traveler was there when Lugh was born, although he didn't see Saba born since it was 2 hours later before she came into the world.
     The man stated that a boy born at midwinter's a rare and wonderful thing. Shortly after he disappeared withough even telling the family goodbye.
      Mercy tells Saba that the horsemen she described sound like the Tonton.  When Saba asks for a description, Mercy just says they are everything from bodyguards to spies to thieves, that these may be the people who took Lugh, and maybe Proctor John was bribed to watch over them until Lugh turned 18.  She also says they may have taken Lugh to Hopetown, which is across Sandsea, since Mercy knows this is where most of the Tonton are.
      Before Saba leaves from Crosscreek, Mercy gives her a rosy pink stone set in a necklace and tells her it's a heartstone and was a gift from her mother.  She tells Saba the heartstone will heat up when you've found "your heart's desire" and the closer you get to that desire the hotter it burns.
     Saba begins her journey across Sandsea, following the horsemen's hoofprints.  After a huge duststorm sweeps her off a sand dune, she ends up in a "flying machine" graveyard, which the way the machines are described, this would be our modern day airplanes and helicopters.
     Saba falls asleep in one of the airplanes and is woken by the sound of hoofbeats.  She decides to steal the person's horse so she can find Lugh faster, and when she attacks it turns out to be Emmi. Emmi stole Mercy's horse and came after Saba.  Saba is about to send her back to Mercy and asks Emmi how much food and water she has left.  She has none, so Saba knows she won't make it back.  She takes Emmi with her even though she's extremely mad at her.
     While they are resting (by this time they are extremely dehydrated with no extra water in sight), they see a "skiff" coming across the desert.  This is basically a sailboat made to go on land by using windpower and sails.  The skiff goes out of control and crashes and an old man and woman come off the skiff.  They find out their names are Rooster and Miz Pinch (they're married).  The Pinch's offer to take Saba and Emmi to Hopetown since that's where they are going too.  Saba and Emmi agree and they sit down for a meal.
     Saba begins to feel lightheaded and realizes the Pinch's have drugged them. When she wakes she and Emmi are tied up and the Pinch's tell Saba they are taking her to Hopetown to be a cage fighter. They cut off Saba's hair to sell too, and Miz Pinch tells Saba if she ever tried to get away they will kill Emmi.
     They arrive in Hopetown, which appears to be a small "city" built out of junk, and go to the Cage Master.
Here Saba sees DeMalo for the first time.  He walks by her and she hears a voice say "I know you" when he looks at her, although he doesn't speak. The Cage Master takes her to the "Colosseum" to test her skills as a cage fighter. Saba wins her first fight.
     When someone loses in the cage, they have to "run the Gauntlet", which basically means all the bloodthirsty people of the town line up with a path in between, and the losing fighter has to try to run through them while they beat him/her.  This always results in the fighter's death.
     Saba is put into a cellblock with all the other cage fighters while Emmi is taken to live in a house with the Pinch's.
     After being in Hopetown for a month, Saba has become know as the angel of death due to her prowess at cage fighting. She's never lost a fight.
     She begins to have nightmares, and mutters and screams in her sleep (they're always about losing Em or Lugh or the cage girls' she's beaten killing her).  After one such dream, she wakes and hears a voice through her cell wall asking if she's okay.  Her and the girl become quick friends, whose name is Helen.
     Emmi has by this time figured out a way to get into the cellblock to see Saba. She has become a water carrier, one of the grubby little kids who brings food and water to the cage fighters.  Emmi keeps Saba up to date on what happens in Hopetown.
      One night while Saba and Helen are talking, when Saba tells Helen about Lugh, Helen reveals that John Trask was her father, and it was definitely the Tonton who took her brother.  She tells her they've taken him to a place called Freedom Fields, deep within the Black Mountains. She tells Saba all about the Tonton and King.  She says it all goes back to chaal.  Everyone is crazy from chewing it or smoking it, and the King is the one who grows it, harvests it, and supplies it.  She further says there's only one place with the right conditions to grow the chaal, and that's Freedom Fields.
     The Tonton steal people away and take them as slaves to work in the fields and also use the chaal to control them.  Win-win situation.  She also tells Saba that she heard her father say that "he had found the boy who would die to save the King", meaning Lugh.
     It turns out that every 6 years, on midsummer's eve, they kill a boy who is 18 and born at midwinter because the King believes it renews his power for another 6 years.  Saba states that's crazy, and Helen agrees, but she says just enough chaal makes people dull witted and slow and easy to control.  Too much makes them out of control, like the crowds in the Colosseum when a fighter runs the gauntlet.
     Saba asks why they wouldn't have taken Lugh when he was a baby, and Helen tells her it's because when a baby lives with his family he has a stronger will and the King believes it makes the sacrifice even stronger.
     Mad Dog comes in the cellblock in one of his beating moods.  He takes Helen out of her cell and when she won't dance for him he kills her.  Saba freaks out and he throws her in the cooler, an underground cell meant to break the cage fighters.
    The next day at Saba's fight (against Epona), she sees a beautiful girl in the audience who hasn't been there before.  When Saba is in the cart to take the cage fighters back to the cellblock the girl comes up to the bars and introduces herself as Maev, leader of the FreeHawks.  She explains Epona is a FreeHawk who was taken and she can't lose and have to run the gauntlet.  Saba says she can't either so they agree to help each other.
     Around this time, Emmi steals Saba's heartstone back from Miz Pinch and gives it to her.
     Boys and girls are kept seperate in the cellblocks, but when they are out in the yard for exercise, a boy has caught Saba's eye.  She finds out his name is Jack.  As she's walking away her heartstone begins to burn.
     According to plan (which Saba's been discussing in secret with Epona and messages carried from Maev through Emmi), Saba loses the fight to Epona.
    The King, who Miz Pinch calls Vicar, shows up at the fights and comes to Saba's cell along with DeMalo and Miz Pinch.  Miz Pinch calls him son and we realize that's why this crazy witch is so powerful.
     Miz Pinch accuses Saba of throwing the fight and she denies it. Though Vicar is suspicious he lets it go for now.
     Saba throws the next 2 fights to stick to the plan (the FreeHawks are supposed to save her and pull her out while she's running the gauntlet), but Vicar knows something is up and declares the gauntlet be moved to in front of his seat.
     Knowing the Hawks can't help her now, Saba searches for a way out. She hears Nero squawking and sees that he is jumping back and forth between the top of the cage and a tall light tower. Saba gets away from her guards and makes the 6 foot jump and scrambles away into Hopetown.
     The next step of the plan was for the Hawks to set Hopetown on fire and let the other cage fighters free along with Sabas help.  Saba ditches this plan and is going to try to find Emmi and a couple horses when a Hawk finds Saba while she's escaping and tells Saba to come with her to help release the cage fighters. Saba tries to get away from the girl (named Ash), but Ash convinces her to stay and help.
     After the prisoners are freed they light the cell blocks on fire, but when Saba sees Jack isn't there she goes into the burning building and rescues him. As they change into disguises Jack stole along their run Saba sees 3 long scars run across his chest that look like claw marks. As they're running to meet up with the Hawks at the gate Jack tells Saba of the rule of 3: if you save someone's life 3 times that person is forever yours and she has one upped him for now. They find the Hawks and before Jack leaves them he kisses Saba. Saba and the Hawks take off with Saba on a horse named Hermes.
     The Pinch's come after them in their skiff but Maev and Ash help Saba wreck the landboat and the King, Cage Master, Rooster, and Miz Pinch all die in the crash.
    Saba goes to Darktrees (the Hawks camp) to get supplies and Jack shows up. He tells her he will take her to Freedom Fields because he knows where it is and none of the Free Hawks do.  Saba agrees, but leaves Emmi with Maev and the Hawks for now because she knows it still might be dangerous due to the Tonton even though the King's dead.
     Note: Jack now has a horse also, a white stallion he stole from town named Ajax.
     Right when they are about to leave, Jack tries to convince Saba to let Emmi come with them. Saba declines but Jack yells for her anyways and asks her if she can ride a horse and shoot a gun. Emmi says she can and proves it by shooting a target dead center. Saba is dumbfounded and agrees to let her come along.
     Ash and Epona end up following them to help against Maevs orders. They come to a small Inn where Ike Twelvetrees is the barkeep and a friend of Jacks. Jack says Ike is the one who knows the way to Freedom Fields so he has to come with them.
     A huge rainstorm comes when they're almost there and Saba's heartstone falls in the river. She goes in after it and almost drowns but Jack saves her and tells her they're even now.
   The first thing Ike does when he sees Jack is to punch him in the nose. Jack tells Saba it's ok, he deserved it and Ike starts ranting about Jack leaving him "hanging upside down,  naked, while those women..." and "when Jack was supposed to meet Ike and Pat o Dooley and didn't because he was off with that-". After this bits and pieces conversation Jack tells Saba Ike is off in the head but from the look on Jacks face Saba knows he's not.
    They all begin to have drinks together and Ike toasts to Molly Pratt, (we don't know who this is at this point, but it is important for the next book) and they just pretty much get plastered together and Ike agrees to come with them because of the rule of 3 and says Jack's already saved his life 3 times. They also meet Tommo, a sweet deaf boy of around 14 who Ike has taken in as his own when his dad abandoned him in Ikes stables. They head to Freedom Fields by way of the mountains called Devils Teeth because of how jagged and sharp the peaks are.
     Jack tells Saba the truth about how he knows Ike and of Freedom Fields. He and Ike were both slaves there who escaped, and now he wants to get rid of Freedom Fields because they are taking everyone's land as they expand and either killing the homesteaders or using them as slaves. He tells her he wants to do something good with his life and getting rid of the Tonton and the Fields is the best way to do it.
      They reach a huge dry lakebed and Jack tells them they have to try to make it across before dark if there's any hope of getting to Lugh before the sacrifice ritual takes place. When they ask why they can't camp in the lakebed Jack shows them his scars and let's them know it was hellworms that did it (just picture tremors), and the worms are nocturnal and live in the lakebed.  Apparently during Wrecker times the lake was poisoned with chemicals and although it killed everything else the worms just grew and evolved.
     They don't make it all the way across before dark and they let the horses go so they have a chance to escape. They manage to defeat the hellworms and continue, but Saba gets an infection where she was clawed by one and falls into a delirium for 2 days. When she wakes they tell her they're now at Freedom Fields. Saba asks how and they tell her Jack stayed with her while they continued on and Jack was able to catch up due to Hermes staying behind when they thought all the other horses left to wait for Saba.
      The group arrives at Freedom Fields and Emmi and Tommo go to the stables there to steal horses for them once the plan is over while Ash, Ebona, Saba, Ike, and Jack head down to where the ceremony is just beginning. They see Vicar Pinch and realize he didn't die in the skiff crash after all.    
     Saba and Ike take down 2 Tonton at the back of the procession and quickly change into their clothes and take their place in the procession leading Lugh to the platform where he is to be burned.
    Jack, Ash, and Epona begin to flood the fields by fully releasing the irrigation fields as a distraction.
     When the other Tonton and Vicar realize what's happening, they see Saba's hood fall off and when DeMalo sees her he turns away and doesn't hurt her although Vicar is screaming for the guards to get them. They make it to the stables but realize Epona isn't there.
    They soon see Epona running trying to get to them but she's surrounded by Tonton. Epona sees Saba holding her bow and nods to her. She leaps off the building she had climbed on to try to escape and spreads her arms wide.  Saba knows what she wants her to do so she takes aim and fires the crossbow into her heart.
     They leave to go meet Emmi and Tommo at the meeting place they sent then to for safety after they released the horses but find out from Tommo that Emmi was captured because she wanted to stay behind and see Lugh.
     The group camps out on a large hill waiting for Vicar to arrive so they have a long clear line of sight and can get Emmi back.
     Vicar arrives with DeMalo and the rest of the Tonton and surrounds the group after tricking Saba, saying that if she came down and gave up they would give Emmi back to the others in the group.
     The FreeHawks show up and DeMalo cuts the ropes binding Saba, tells her "until next time" and rides off, taking the Tonton loyal to him with him and leaving Vicar and the other Tonton to their fate.
     After the battle with the remaining Tonton is over Saba realizes Vicar has escaped on horseback and she takes off after him.
     She overtakes him and shoots him with her crossbow while they are fighting on a mountain ledge. Nero swoops down and Vicar falls backwards over the cliff.
     When Saba arrives back with the group she sees a not yet dead Tonton take aim at Ike from the ground. Tommo throws himself toward Ike at the same time Saba screams bit it's too late and Ike is killed.
    Afterwards, Maev and the FreeHawks head back to Darktrees after saying goodbye and Saba, Tommo, Lugh and Emmi are making plans to head west for a new place to live when Saba sees Jack riding away.
     She heads after him, and he tells her he'll be back, but he has to go tell Molly about Ike because Ike would have wanted it and he has a couple other things he has to take care of that are very important...the "business" he told her about when they first met. Saba gives him her heartstone, kisses him, and then she leaves with Lugh ,Tommo, and Emmi to go out west. End of book one.

OK so I know this was way way longer than most of the summaries I write, but although it seems like it should be a simple novel there are so many small things in this book which pop up in the second one that I wanted to make sure I had all the details in. I hope this helps as a refresher while awaiting the last book!


  1. Beautifully written summary and a great refresher before I dive into the second book! Thanks a bunch :)

    1. My pleasure! Thank you for the kind words!

  2. Suck on a duck it was a very bootyfull

  3. Thxs a lot! This helped me a lot 10/10 :)

    1. You are very welcome! I hope you enjoy the rest of the series!

  4. After reading this summary I want to read the second book!

    1. You definitely should! Although I was disappointed with the 3rd book (you probably won't be; most people weren't, it just didn't end the way I wanted it to)it's still a beautifully written series.

  5. This book is really amazing. You will enjoy the writting style. You should try to hear the audio by Heather Lind.

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