Dustborn is everything I wanted it to be and will be a book I shove lovingly to everyone I know and I’m not even remotely sorry about it. This book is a must-read for fans of Mad Max and and stories of humanity’s hopeful perseverance in the face of adversity. Honestly, how am I supposed to review such an amazing book?
Welcome to my review stop on the Terminal Tours Blog Tour for Dustborn by Erin Bowman! Thank you for letting me participate in the tour and my eternal thanks to HMH Teen for surprising me with a finished copy of the book. And isn’t the cover stunning?!
Publisher: HMH Teen | Release Date: April 20, 2021 | Pages: 432
Age Range: Young Adult | Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic | Format: Hardcover | Source: Publisher
Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her.
Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.
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amputation, animal death (pg. 275-278), blood, death, death during childbirth, forced labor, imprisonment, loss of a parent (on page), memory loss (drugging), murder, underage drinking, violence, war
My Review of Dustborn
“The northern sky is alight with ribbons of green and white, dancing and twining above the darkening horizon. A silent storm is coming.”
Fast-paced and instantly engaging, Dustborn gripped me with its strong and vivid opening that highlights the dangerous postapocalyptic setting. Bowman manages to balance a quick pace with beautifully descriptive language while effortlessly weaving worldbuilding into the narrative. Expertly plotted and paced, the book starts out running and never loses steam. Light on technology so this is a book that’ll appeal to a wide audience there isn’t a lot of worldbuilding beyond the setting (what happened to this planet), the beliefs of the Wastes (the stories passed down of gods and history), and the dangers of life in the Wastes (if the planet won’t kill you, the raiders probably will).
“‘Someday you too will die, and a new soul will take your place. The cycle continues. Even in these wastelands, where our gods have abandoned us, life will not cease.”
Don’t let the high octane pace fool you: there’s plenty of time for the reader to catch their breath. It’s a book with high stakes and a lot of death. Dustborn is set in a dangerous world and I was on pins and needles the whole time worrying about the characters (who I loved). Who can we trust?! I don’t know but I am anxious about it. Delta has so much love and devotion for her pack, as well as a sense of duty which saddles her with the weight of the world. This coupled with her teenaged impetuous makes for a dogged pursuit of rescuing her loved ones, and I really appreciated her growth.
“Do not carry the mistakes of others as though they are your own. Life is hard enough already.”
Delta and her decision-making captures the impulsive optimism of teenagers not thinking things through; I like that she acts like a teenager, but learns from the mistakes of her impulsiveness to share the burden with those she trusts. So often in YA the world is saved by the impetuousness of teenaged characters, but I appreciate how Bowman remains true to her YA character’s actions but also tempers the ‘run in guns a-blazin’ with the pragmatic and careful planning of others. Delta’s dogged and narrow-minded pursuit of her pack isn’t begrudged on, it’s understood, but the people around her are also point out flaws in her plan and troubleshoot with her. It’s a far cry from either ignoring the opinions of teenagers because “they don’t know better” or having an entire system fall.
“I see now that the wastes turn us brutish and short-sided. All any of us try to do is survive, and that means doing what feels right from moment to moment. I did what I had to. You did the same.”
I love how the book touches on morality in times of crisis and cultural devastation. How the water gets muddied between right and wrong solely based on whether or not you are the one making the choice and the duality of those choices. Inevitably societies in a post-apocalyptic setting will fall towards utilitarianism – good is based on if it will help the majority of people (the greater good), but our characters do grapple with this throughout the text in various scenarios: morality shifts depending on the situation at hand.
“‘And besides, I don’t need kids to live. I don’t need to settle down with [redacted] – or anybody – to have my life mean something.'”
Can I just say THANK YOU for having representation for women not wanting to have children?! There’s nothing wrong with procreating but it’s frustrating that it’s the default in our society, a desire to not have children is looked at as a defect. More of this, please. Periods are also present and discussed, as well as consent.
“I like to believe that we are more than the actions of our past.”
For those of you who enjoyed Goddess in the Machine but found the linguistics aspect of it challenging or unnecessary, this is a great book for you! So much of this book in setting and tone remind me of Goddess but the narrative isn’t bogged down by trying to decipher words in text. There are really only two: plas (plastic) and binos (binoculars), and they are super easy to understand based on the content clues.
“Distrusting is how we survive in this world. But to move beyond surviving – to truly live – we need to trust each other.”
All in all, Dustborn is top tier science fiction and I can’t recommend it enough. Bowman crafted a spellbinding story of hope, perseverance, and love for your chosen family (pack) while touching on compelling philosophical themes if you want to think about them. This is one of my favorite books ever and solidifies Erin Bowman’s status on my insta-buy list!
TL;DR: Readerly Gist for Dustborn
Because I have a tendency to be overly verbose, I’m now including a TL;DR section a la my gists written on Readerly in my book reviews. Want to know whether or not this book is for you in 200 characters or less? Check out my slideshow below..
Recommended if you enjoyed…
Other Books by Erin Bowman
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read Dustborn yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What are your favorite sci-fi/western or post-apocalyptic books? What should I add to my TBR?