Raging Star

Raging Star

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series. You can read my reviews of these books [here] and [here].

Raging Star was written by Moira Young and published in 2014. The novel forms the final part of the dystopian Dust Lands Trilogy, continuing Saba’s mission to protect her family and liberate New Eden from the clutches of DeMalo and his Tontons. Raging Star is preceded by Blood Red Road (2011) and Rebel Heart (2012) and I would really advise reading them in sequence as they do not stand very well on their own.

It’s been a month since the attack on Resurrection and Saba’s life has never been more dangerous. She’s a rebel now – one of the Free Hawks reborn – and she’s made it her mission to defeat the Tontons through a series of systematic attacks around New Eden. However, when a bombing mission goes horribly wrong, she finds herself at DeMalo’s mercy once again.

This time, DeMalo’s demand is simple. If she consents to be his wife, he’ll ensure that all of her friends are safely exiled from New Eden. If she doesn’t, he’ll hunt them down and kill them all on the night of the Blood Moon. As this only leaves Saba with seven nights, she joins forces with Jack once again in a last-ditch attempt to spark rebellion within New Eden.

Yet there are added complications. Saba is exhausted and torn between her love for Jack and desire for DeMalo. When Nero goes missing, it also starts to become clear that there’s a traitor within the Free Hawks – one who would sooner make a deal with the Tonton than risk his life in a foolish rebellion. Saba can’t afford to fail but is it really possible to overthrow an entire regime in less than a week?

I’ll start this review by freely admitting that I was disappointed. Bitterly so. Blood Red Road remains one of my favourite dystopian novels and Rebel Heart, while weaker, was still an enjoyable read. Raging Star is just lacking. There is really no better way of putting it than that. Before I go any further, I just think I’ll post a word of warning. While the novel is not graphically violent, it does contain scenes of child endangerment. Motherhood is a large theme in the novel and there is focus on the Tonton practice of leaving sickly children outside to die of exposure. If you are likely to find scenes like this upsetting, you might want to give this novel a miss.

The real excitement in Raging Star comes in its opening and closing chapters. While these are suitably action-packed, the 300 pages in between felt more like padding. Despite DeMalo’s ultimatum, there isn’t really much of a sense of threat hanging over this tale. Much of its length is taken up by Saba visiting and speaking with various characters.

Because of this, the climax of the novel came as a bit of a shock. The meat of it only takes up about 20 pages, including the sudden deaths of two major characters. These are characters that Saba cares about but the emotional impact is muted due to the fact that no space is left to show her reaction. I found myself comparing this to the climax of Mockingjay. The shock death in the final act of Collins’s novel provided development for Katniss. It sank her into depression and heavily influenced her actions over the last few chapters. The deaths in Raging Star barely affect Saba at all. They happen without any kind of lasting emotional impact.

Following this is a particularly rushed epilogue, serving no purpose other than to explain what happened to the surviving characters and provide a brief explanation as to what became of Saba after New Eden. Again, I found this to be really disappointing. More than anything, I wish the novel had been four pages shorter. If it had ended with Saba walking off into the desert (in true Mad Max style), I would have been satisfied. The final scene with Jack just felt tacked on, emphasising more than ever how forced their relationship was.

It’s always been clear in this series that Young’s strength is not in writing relationships. The main purpose of Raging Star is to strengthen the love triangle between Saba, Jack and DeMalo. I personally feel that this was a mistake. While I’m never really a fan of love triangles, the relationship between Saba and DeMalo has never made sense to me. While DeMalo is a decent villain, that’s really all he is: a monster. He’s a vicious dictator who believes in sacrificing the weak, the old and the disabled in order to create his perfect world. Really, I can’t see why the choice between him and Jack is so difficult to Saba. While Jack’s protean nature and constant toying with Saba’s affections with irritating, at least he’s not a mass murderer.

It really is a shame that the focus of this series has shifted to the relationships between the primary cast as it just really shows up how poorly developed they all are. Really, this novel is more about the mystery than the action, a sort-of spy story which pours doubt on who Saba can really trust. While I did actually quite like this idea in theory, it rapidly became apparent that the identity of the mole was far too obvious. Sure, there was the odd red herring thrown into the mix but it was still pretty easy to work out who the traitor was by process of elimination. I mean, Young has been building towards this since Rebel Heart.

The fact that Saba was blind to this just highlighted her gradually weakening. In Blood Red Road, Saba was simply amazing. She was strong and determined and fierce, but her “Angel of Death” side was balanced out by the fact that she was emotionally stunted and harboured a completely irrational hatred for her sister. Over the course of Rebel Heart and Raging Star, Saba has started making really stupid mistakes. At one point, Lugh expresses his belief that love makes people weak. In the case of Saba, I’m inclined to believe in him.

Saba has become the figurehead of a rebellion (and the similarities between this and Mockingjay did not escape me). It is her job to lead her army. To guide them to victory over the Tonton and reclaim their stolen homesteads in New Eden. However, her love for Jack and desire for DeMalo has made her prone to making stupid mistakes. While I really did admire her desire for a bloodless coup (and some of her ideas towards how to obtain it were rather clever), her motivation didn’t really stem from a perceived need to protect her army. She was purely concerned with avoiding hurting either of her loves.

Really, this frustrated me no end. Innocent characters died in the story because of Saba’s weak planning. She never told anyone about DeMalo’s threat as it would reveal her feelings for him. She instead allowed all of her loyal follows to risk themselves in ignorance – believing in her due to her reputation but never knowing that the Sword of Damocles was hanging right over their heads. It’s just frustrating. So much rests on Saba, her confidence and leadership, yet she just comes across as a love-struck teenage girl.

Anyhow, I think I’ve probably said enough about this book. To keep talking would risk spoiling the story. Raging Star is a really weak ending to the series. It’s poorly paced and Saba’s character development has really taking a hammering. While I couldn’t recommend Blood Red Road more, it’s a book that I really wish that I’d read in isolation. I don’t think I’d really recommend the trilogy as a whole.

Raging Star can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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