Good post-apocalyptic fiction raises questions about humankind's capacity to learn from its mistakes, but this thinly-plotted second installment of the Dustlands trilogy is not up to the task.
Here, the common folk, with all the trappings of peasantry from centuries past, are lifted from their mean lives by shamans, sweat lodges and vision quests. Heroes and heroines rise from the ranks to battle the evil Tonton and their new leader, the Pathfinder, who's set upon slaughtering the old and weak and creating a race of settlers for New Eden. Wrecker civilization has left car-strewn hillsides, imposing concrete buildings and wastelands for Saba and her motley crew to traverse. But Saba, with a price on her head, mostly wants to be left alone to ride west to reunite with her one true love, Jack—although she's tempted by others along the way. Derivative plot elements, from the nine black-robed men on horseback to the Wraithway, are not helped by the progressively garbled syntax that connotes not so much a dialect as the well-worn trope of the noble savage. Saba finds the Wraithway filled with evidence of Wreckers' "earth hate.…The skellentons of their buildins. The toppled chimleys," a place haunted by "the spirits of earth an water."
Where Blood Red Road (2011) was fast-paced and chaotic, this meandering book just bogs down. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 12 & up)