“I bin dreamin of my long-dead mother.”
Once again, I’m reviewing one of the later installments of a series (I reviewed book two here), so I’m going to keep the summarizing to a minimum. Moira Young‘s Raging Star (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014) is the final book in the Dust Lands trilogy, which takes place on what seems to be Earth some hundreds of years after we wrecked everything. This is the story of Saba’s final push to save her little chunk of the decimated world from a life of slavery and forced eugenics. That and a whole lot of time spent in her head, dealing with her immense guilt over all the people she’s killed and the many, many times she’s fucked up royally.
It took me a really long time to get to this book, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that it’s mostly because I fucking hate the cover and title so, so much. Poor Moira Young. She is such a good writer, and these stories are so bleak and brutal, they deserve so much better than the trash heap that the publishers came up with for the cover. Why they chose to deviate from the beautiful cover style of the first book, Blood Red Road (which is also the only book that doesn’t have a cringe-inducing title), I will never understand. Anyways, my point being, if you can get over the embarrassment of carrying around a book that looks like this one, it is recommended (if you’ve read the first two, anyways). Here’s why I love this series so much, and why I think this book was a good conclusion to a solid trilogy.
What really stands out about these books is the writing. Written almost entirely in the vernacular of our completely illiterate heroine, there is a bleak, dusty poetry to just about every sentence that Moira Young writes. You can basically open the book to any page and find a little morsel of beauty. I just opened it at random and found this, for example:
The words let go their hold. They drop darkly from my lips. We-ain’t-got-time. They land, light-footed, and they’re off. Four words runnin to the four way. North south east west.
See, doesn’t she deserve better than what her marketing team gave her?
The story itself is bleak, bleak, and more bleak. While Raging Star is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, it’s satisfying in an almost completely depressing way. There is very little to smile about at the close of the story, and in a way, even though the premise of the entire trilogy can feel completely over-the-top at times, this makes it feel a bit more real. Young has somehow managed to give readers closure, a happy ending, and a sad ending all at once. Nothing is clear-cut, black or white, good or bad. Morality is muddled, and nothing is easy. With the current trend of YA dystopias that end with a main character being killed off, perhaps this doesn’t seem that remarkable, but Young has done something slightly different here in that she has depicted the reality of human hurt in the name of a “cause” without stooping to completely overblown melodrama. Note that I use the word completely, because it is dramatic, just not barfy dramatic. Ya feel me?
A lot of readers have complained about pacing, so I went into this worried about being bored out of my mind, but huzzah! I never was. I generally read this book in one hundred to two hundred page chunks at a time, so I don’t know what all those ADHD chuckleheads were talking about. Is it as action-packed and thrilling as Blood Red Road, with its cage fighting and Hellwurms? Hell no. But it is crazy tense and the story rolls through the imagination at a pretty decent clip.
I will say that, as usual, Young kind of lost it with the action heavy segments. I swear, in every single one of these books there is at least one intense action scene that is complete nonsense. The first two books I’d read sections over and over again, trying to actually understand what the hell was going on, but I’ve learned to just ignore my total befuddlement and go for the important outcomes in the aftermath of the chaos.
I was also disappointed in the lack of page time Jack and Saba had together. Their relationship was one of my favorite parts of the first book, and the paucity of happy moments spent with them actually together and enjoying each other was a bit of a bummer. I guess Moira Young doesn’t give a shit about my feelings 🙁 🙁 🙁
OK, bottom line: this is a good conclusion. It’s better than Rebel Heart (ugh, I just CAN’T with that title), but can’t come close to the AWESOME that was Blood Red Road. Honestly? That book can stand on its own, even though it clearly ends with a trilogy in mind. While I did enjoy this book and the trilogy as a whole, it’s the first that really stands out as an excellent book, with the second two, while solid, just acting as shadows of its CRUCIALNESS.
For music, I know I’m being repetitive, but Saba is and will always be the Angel of Death, so here’s that song again.
Where I got it: the library