Erin Bowman's enthralling post-apocalyptic thriller Dustborn is the story of Delta, a 17-year-old struggling to survive in the decaying wastelands of a desert planet.
After Delta's sister, Indie, dies while giving birth, Delta and her niece leave the far-away healer to return to the home settlement, Dead River. She finds "every hut... smoking" and all the members of her "pack" either murdered or captured. The raiders then reunite Delta with her family at Bedrock, an oasis settlement under the tyrannical rule of the General, where drugged workers toil in blissful ignorance. There, the General discovers Delta is a "map-bearer," a chosen member of her pack branded with a map that reveals the location of the Verdant, a "green paradise." He commands Delta to direct him to the Verdant but she can't read the map; the General orders her mother be killed and swears to kill another member of her group every three days. In order to escape Bedrock, overthrow the General and save the surviving members of her pack, Delta enlists the help of some unlikely allies.
Dustborn is a story told in first-person that emphasizes the enduring importance of community. Throughout the novel, Bowman (Vengeance Road; Taken) prompts readers to contemplate the most painful aspects of life, but Dustborn doesn't depress readers or inspire existential angst; instead, it continually reiterates the human need for friendship, love and connection. Ultimately, Bowman concludes that the secret to life is not hidden in some unreachable utopia--it is in the hearts and minds of those we love. The goal, Bowman writes, is "not just to survive a new dawn together, but to live. Truly live." --Cade Williams, freelance reviewer