Waterworld meets Mad Max meets The 100 in this post-apocalyptic western. Delta lives with her pack in Dead River and harbors a dangerous secret. Tattooed on her back is a map to the Verdant, a place rumored to be a lush, green oasis in the middle of a dry, dying desert. When raiders sent by the General attack her village, Delta is away and avoids capture. She sets out to rescue her family, where she encounters a boy from her past and is ultimately captured and given to the General. As Delta works to save her family and uncover the secret of her map, she embarks on a daring journey across the desolate landscape, only to discover a secret that changes her entire world.
This is a really fun romp through a post-apocalyptic frontier. It’s fast-paced, full of suspense, and led by a super strong woman who refuses to be broken. Delta is an excellent character. She loves her family and pack and would do anything to keep them safe, including taking on the evil General who wants her for the map on her back. She’s incredibly clever and uses her wits to create important inventions like an inverted well for water and a braking system for a wind glider that can travel across the sand. I love to see a strong woman, skilled in engineering, and working to save the day without feeling overburdened by the weight of that destiny. There is a light romance between Delta and her friend Asher, which is sweet without taking the focus from the action of the story. Asher was also tattooed with a map, which together could be meaningful, if the two can truly learn to trust each other.
Bowman’s world-building is stellar, especially coupled with the excellent map at the beginning. It’s a hardscrabble landscape with a few major settlements. As Delta travels between settlements she meets mysterious, well-drawn characters and forms tentative alliances with the goal of bringing the General down. The side characters and towns were nicely realized and added to the strong world-building.
There’s a twist towards the end of the book that I honestly did not see coming! I thought it was incredibly clever and helped to tie in many elements from the story in a satisfying way. After the twist is revealed, the story moves at a brisk pace towards an action-packed resolution.
One thing that bothered me were the references to Old World tech. It was hard to figure out why some things are considered Old World tech, like goggles, while other things are just accepted parts of everyday life. That took me out of the world-building a little bit, but not enough to stop my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, this was a fun story and an easy read. It’d be a good choice for fans of The 100 or Maze Runner.
Have you read Dustborn? What did you think?
CW: death, graphic injuries, drug use, death of parent