Cover of Dustborn: A girl in goggles walks through a dust storm.

About the Book

Title: Dustborn
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Science Fiction
BFF Charm: 100% That B
Talky Talk: Survival Mash Up
Bonus Factor: Survival
Anti-Bonus Factors: Dictators, Dust
Relationship Status: Fireside Storyteller

Cover Story: Science Fiction

This doesn’t look like a YA cover, which I know is a twisted kind of compliment (I DO like some of them, but we all know there is a healthy amount of cringe!). I love that it’s proper science fiction-y and looks like some place I would NEVER want to go. I am also making myself giggle by imagining there was some book jacket marketing person out there who briefly contemplated putting Delta in a fancy dress in a dust storm.

The Deal:

Life in the Wastes is hard, y’all. It’s all survival and never having enough of anything, especially water, and constantly dealing with sand in crevices you do NOT want it to be in. Delta’s small clan lives on the Dead River, so named because it’s drying up more and more every year. Half of them, including Delta, want to move to Powder Town for the security, but the others believe that it won’t be long before the gods return from wherever they went after abandoning their people. Things go sideways for Delta after she has to bring her sister to a healer to deliver her baby, and they get progressively worse as Delta returns home from that emotional journey to find some of her clan murdered and the rest kidnapped by raiders.

With her home in ashes and a useless baby in tow (so NOT what you need in a post-apocalyptic wasteland), Delta sets her sights on saving her family, no matter the cost.  

BFF Charm: 100% That B

BFF charm with Lizzo's face.

Delta is the kind of practical, world-hardened character that one becomes when your only mode is “survive until tomorrow, then survive some more”. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her weaknesses and she definitely does not win every fight, but, listen, the girl walked all day long pulling her pregnant sister behind her on a sled and didn’t even bat an eye. She’s a BADASS BITCH. I’d be her friend, but I don’t think I’m tough enough to even walk in her dust trail. Delta also has a “Clarke from The 100” complex where she is willing to do anything to “protect her people”, even to the detriment of her own health and safety, but, hey, she also gets shit DONE, so you can’t totally knock it.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

When Delta was a child, her best friend was a boy named Asher, but she’d heard he was murdered by raiders after their camps had split apart. I think we all know where this is going… Asher pops up again and he’s much different from the boy Delta remembered, but he’s someone familiar in her world that’s been turned upside down. I was okay with Delta being extremely salty about how Asher had been living his life and how they had to work through their differing priorities. I also appreciated that the romance did not overshadow Delta’s goals; she was totally prepared to leave his ass behind at one point to accomplish what she had to do.

Talky Talk: Survival Mash Up

With the focus on female characters, the desert-like setting, and the scarcity of water, this is definitely a Mad Max: Fury Road style adventure, with way less cars and Tom Hardy. But, as I mentioned above, I was also getting The 100 vibes, especially with some of the reveals later on in the book. The people of Delta’s world are hardened, wizened, and beaten down, but there’s also a mystery to solve that could potentially change everything, and it was also just fun to hypothesize what kind of place this was: fantasy or post-apocalyptic Earth? (Based on the geysers, I was guessing maybe Yellowstone area, but I won’t tell you if I was right or wrong.)

I will caution that the book starts off a bit slow, though stuff does happen, but the main crux of the plot doesn’t really start to gain steam until the midway point. I was invested enough in Delta’s predicament that this didn’t really bother me, but I was also forewarned and that may have helped manage my expectations.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dictators

Graffiti of a dictator's face with the words "OBEY" underneath

If anyone ever really needed a punch to a certain part of their anatomy… it would be the main baddie in this book. He’s awful.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dust

Brown dust cloud

I am not what you’d call an “outdoorsy” type. Nature is like a Monet; I enjoy its beauty from afar, but up close it’s all dirty, buggy, and—because I live in Florida—sweaty. You would not find me surviving well in a desert land with scare resources. My skin felt itchy just thinking about how often Delta DIDN’T bathe.

Bonus Factor: Survival

While I fully hope I will NEVER need to learn how to filter my pee so I can drink clean water, I love learning little things like this from survival stories. Plus, I’m a bit of a romantic, so even though I kind of wanted to yell at the characters, like, “Just give up and die because your situation sucks!”, I do get a thrill when people cling to that little bit of hope and beat incredible odds.

Relationship Status: Fireside Storyteller

I really, really don’t want to hang out where you are, Book; like, no offense or anything, but I burn really easily. But if we happened to be somewhere sheltered (preferably with AC) and you wanted to sit and tell me about all your adventures, I would gladly hang on every word you say.

Literary Matchmaking

City of Savages

We described City of Savages by Lee Kelly as having The 100-esque energy, so I imagine this will be right up your alley.

Killer of Enemies

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac is Max Max meets Jurassic Park if you thought this book was lacking in killer animals.

Red Rising

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising and its sequels are all about survival at its grittiest.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Clarion Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Dustborn is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.