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Delta of Dead River sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator rising to power in the Wastes and discovers a secret that will reshape her world in this postapocalyptic Western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl.

Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her. 

Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published April 20, 2021

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About the author

Erin Bowman

15 books1,908 followers
Erin Bowman is the critically acclaimed author of numerous books for children and teens, including the Taken Trilogy, Vengeance Road, Retribution Rails, the Edgar Award-nominated Contagion duology, The Girl and the Witch’s Garden, and the forthcoming Dustborn. A web designer turned author, Erin has always been invested in telling stories—both visually and with words. Erin lives in New Hampshire with her husband and children. You can visit her online at embowman.com, on twitter @erin_bowman, or on instagram @heyerin.

Erin is represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties.


PLEASE NOTE: Erin does not check goodreads mail. If you message her this way she will not see it. For contact methods, visit Erin's website.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 335 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,469 reviews9,357 followers
December 27, 2022
In Dustborn the world has been reduced to a desert wasteland. Danger lies around every corner and humans are forced to travel in packs just to up their chances of survival.

Delta of Dead River has lived her whole life in this world. Delta is very special, for she is the keeper of a map that could lead to the Verdant, a Garden of Eden of sorts, and a place that many people want to find.

The tricky part is the map is tattooed on Delta's back. She's never even seen it clearly and couldn't read it anyways, as it's drawn in old hand that she is unable to decipher.

When her village gets attacked by a band of raiders lead by a man known as the General, Delta believes they may be looking for her and the map.

Delta's pack is taken by the General and his people, therefore Delta must go on a quest to get them back. Along the way she runs into old friends and makes some new ones.

Let's cut to the chase, this wasn't my favorite from Bowman. I can definitely admit it is a good story, it just never captured my attention like I was hoping. Not once!

The thing I appreciate the most about the story was the setting. I love a dusty, dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland. Who doesn't?

What I was never able to care about was the main character and her mission. I got to the very end and was like, what's this girl's name? Her entire story was forgettable for me.

There were aspects of the story that had some promise for me, but ultimately I just couldn't get behind it. Also, there was the unnecessary slaughter of an animal about halfway through that completely turned me off. The narrative was never able to grab me back after that.

Overall, while I completely understand why a lot of Readers love this one, the content just wasn't a fit for me. Bowman's writing is strong and I have enjoyed other novels from her; specifically, the Contagion duology.

Thank you to the publisher, Clarion Books, for providing me a copy to read and review.

While this one wasn't quite to my tastes, I look forward to picking up more from Erin Bowman in the future.
Profile Image for TJ ☾.
688 reviews1,103 followers
July 13, 2022
i'm a simple girl. i see mad max vibes, i click 🤷🏽‍♀️

the dystopian YA genre makes me feel so nostalgic. life was so simple before everybody started f*cken 😭 so to begin, this book follows our protagonist delta of dead river as she takes a journey across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in order to find salvation for her family.

the setting and worldbuilding was the reason i originally picked this up, and it really followed through. i loved how the worldbuilding was originally introduced as simple, and then as time went on layers and history were peeled back to show how the world had become so desolate.


i also loved how the characters survivalist mindsets were always at the forefront. delta's appearance and attractiveness was never once mentioned in this. towards the beginning she cuts her hair off and uses it as currency and it's never once brought up again because it's the last thing on anybody's mind. when delta looks at a baby she doesn't think about how cute it is, she feels resentful because it's a liability and another mouth to feed. by the end of this, her anxiety about wasted water had become mine. legit when a character had the audACiTy to drink water and have some of it dribble down their chin i'd be straight up fuming. like bro are you crazy we're in A drOUGHT!!!

while the setting made the book for me, it would not have worked had delta herself not been such a fitting protagonist. god bless YA heroines that think quickly on their feet, take warnings and hints seriously when they're given, don't trust any ole character who comes across as 'good', and overall just have hella survival smarts.

the problem i had with this though is that none of the other characters in this book stood out to me except for her. the love interest/childhood best friend asher was meh, and the villain was not particularly daunting or interesting. i felt like this world could've had many eccentric personalities to bring it alive, and that missed opportunity is where the story fell a little flat for me.

in the end though i had a good time with this one, and i actually liked that the overarching message was similar to fury roads. paradise isn't a place, it's a mindset. searching for a utopia in hopes that the grass will be greener on the other side will never be fruitful, but building something better from the things of value you originally overlooked is.

Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,622 reviews5,063 followers
June 16, 2022
Considering how much I've loved most of the other Erin Bowman books I've read and how incredible the premise of this book is, I had very high hopes that Dustborn would be a new favorite; unfortunately, though, it fell short for me in a lot of ways. Despite a lot happening in the first half of the book, it dragged by, and the second half, while being substantially more action-packed, was still hard to connect with.

Delta's a protagonist who should have worked well for me in theory (she's grouchy, pragmatic, and yet her maternal urges are overwhelming - all of these are typically ingredients for a main character I can root for), but somehow, I never was able to emotionally invest in her, and I think part of that may be due to this being a stand-alone.

While I love an SFF stand-alone as much as the next person does on occasion, this is a story that I personally feel would have lived up to its potential so much more if it'd been further embellished upon and split into a duology. I would've had a chance to grow to genuinely love these characters, and so the stakes would have felt higher, but as it was, none of the risky moments of action ever struck a chord because I simply didn't care what happened to anyone (other than Bay and Rune - and frankly, I could knock off an entire star just for how furious I was over that scene with Rune).

The romance was lackluster, the twist was very interesting (and surprising) but ultimately not enough to save the story leading up to that point, and the ending felt anti-climactic and strange. Again, I sound like a broken record here but I truly believe that splitting this book into two installments would have gone a long way to allow it to live up to the tremendous amount of potential the synopsis held.

I'm excited to read more from Erin Bowman because I know what she's capable of, but Dustborn was disappointing and unmemorable, and I strongly recommend that people who are new to Erin's work start with Contagion or Vengeance Road instead.

Representation: BIPOC side characters; queer side characters; multiple side characters have disabilities (including missing eyes and prosthetic limbs); the main character and love interest are heavily scarred

Content warnings for:

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy! All thoughts are honest and my own.

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Profile Image for kaylie!.
344 reviews71 followers
January 30, 2021
3.5 Stars

☆ advanced reader copy from edelweiss ☆

This is a wonderful post-apocalyptic standalone and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

This is pitched for fans of The 100, and I definitely agree with it. More specifically, season 2 and season 5 of The 100.

I loved the unforgiving atmosphere/setting of the story. The title does not lie, it is indeed very dusty. The world is truly harrowing and what's more harrowing is that this future could be plausible.

Plotwise, this novel isn't the strongest. It takes to about the half-way mark for the plot to really unfold. Because of this, the book gets off to a "slow" start. Slow in quotations because while there is action, I didn't really care . The stakes weren't there.

After the 50% mark, I could not put this book down. The plot twists were incredibly well done and kept me hooked until the end.

The BEST part of this book was hands-down the character development. I loved watching Delta grow. Honestly, I could write a whole essay on her character arc and still be in awe of it. Character development is what Erin Bowman does best, and this book is no exception.

I am immensely grateful to have gotten a chance to read this ahead of release day. Erin Bowman is one of my favorite authors and she still hasn't let me down. :)
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
2,981 reviews363 followers
March 8, 2021
This was definitely a captivating read in it's almost real feel to it. With the world as crazy as it has been, it is no wonder this book appealed to me right away.

A while it did drag at times and the ending left me wanting more to the story it was definitely an original take with unusual ideas and concept. Maybe not my absolute favorite from this author but a good read nonetheless and one that will definitely keep you entertained.

*ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books478 followers
Want to read
June 24, 2020
Mad Max . . . The 100 . . . western vibes . . .

Profile Image for Celia.
Author 6 books479 followers
January 10, 2021
Thank you, NetGalley, Edelweiss, and the publisher for the arc.

Yea so, when I was approved for the same book days apart on two different sites, I took that as a sign to read this bad boy ASAP. Erin Bowman has solidified herself as one of my favorites authors, and I was so excited to see what this book had to offer. I was not let down whatsoever.

First, let's focus on the cover. I get Dune/Mad Max/Waterworld vibes and save for Waterworld, I was in like a chicken wing. The story starts off with Delta and her pack, who live in a sand-filled world where their gods have seemingly abandoned them. When her sister falls ill during childbirth, Delta takes her to a healer. But tragedy strikes and Delta finds that the General has attacked her home, killing and kidnapping those she loves. Little does she know, her world is about to get turned upside down when her childhood friend, Asher, appears. is he there to help or hinder her?? Dun, dun, DUNNNNNNN

Ok, the world-building was so epic. I love worlds that have been dried out or frozen over. It gives the book such a depressing vibe that our protagonist has to overcome on top of the main point of the story. The sands are an antagonist in themselves. It sucks to have to save your family but to also dodge vicious storms and bubbling hot lava-type fields, that's another ballgame.

Delta is a badarse heroine who, along the way, discovers how far she's willing to go for those she loves, and like most YA, she stumbles and enlists the help of others, whether she trusts them fully or not. She knows she cannot go at it alone.

The plot itself kept me engaged enough to slog through my days, exhausted because I stayed up way too late reading. I have slogged for you, Erin Bowman, but it was worth it one hundred percent. None of the twists was all that mouth-gaping and wide-eyed, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

The cover is epic. Did I already say that?

5 stars. Duh.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,089 reviews1,511 followers
May 9, 2021
Dustborn by Erin Bowman is a young adult fantasy read that mixes in a lot of different elements. This one is a post apocalyptic with a western feel to it, think along the lines of Mad Max. Along with a sort of western dystopian setting you have a bit of sci fi and some romance making a good mix involved in the story.

Delta of Dead River is the main character in this dust covered fantasy world. Delta, her mother and sister live with their pack in a village in the desert. Venturing away is frowned upon as the thick dust encompasses all that surrounds the village but survival here is getting tougher and tougher each day. Delta’s sister however is pregnant and when things don’t go right with the birth Delta sets out to try to save her sister and her child.

I was quite taken with what the author created with these characters and setting immediately upon beginning to read this one which is sort of rare with me when it comes to fantasies these days. Most times picking up a chunky fantasy, which this one is over 400 pages, I will find myself bored as the stories seem to drag on instead of progressing any action. Thankfully Dustborn was full of action right from the start with a creative world that kept me focused on just what would come next for Delta and with one event after another with interesting elements all the way through I really enjoyed reading this story.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,616 followers
April 20, 2021
Dustborn is a genre-blending young adult novel that follows 17-year-old Delta of Dead River, who, after a raid on her village, sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator and discovers a secret that will reshape her world. Delta and her pack live in an unforgiving post-apocalyptic desert landscape surrounded by thick dust that coats everything it comes into contact with, the searing heat and a deadly wasteland where untold dangers lurk at every turn. They struggle by the arid river as water is extremely scarce, which becomes a bigger problem as the fatal heat of the summer months arrives and people fight for survival. She and her family used to believe that the gods would look out for them as they traverse this perilous place but Delta’s faith has long since been extinguished, however, her mother assures her that they will return if she places her trust in them once more; Delta isn't sure. While her people pray to the stars, asking the gods who abandoned them aeons ago to bring water and green back to the wastes, Delta just wants her family to move somewhere safer. No one is coming to save them, Delta believes. They have to save themselves. Despite Delta’s predicament, she does have something of great value that many would quite literally kill for. When she leaves Dead River and heads on an expedition to the neighbouring settlement with her pregnant older sister, Indie, as she had gone into early labour, Delta is under instruction to seek the medical expertise of a local healer named Zuly.

The pack midwife believes she cannot safely deliver the baby herself. Across the arduous, excruciating terrain of endless sand dunes, Delta must pull a cart laden with her ailing sister and her unborn baby in order to save her life. But tragedy strikes Delta once again when her sister perishes while giving birth and she must make her way back to Dead River with the baby and her grief in tow. But nothing could've prepared her for the anguish and hell about to be unleashed. She discovers the village has been raided and its inhabitants either forcefully abducted or brutally murdered. Believing those who came were looking for her due to the priceless, unreadable map of symbols that was branded into the skin on her back when she was five-years-old, she is both distraught and angry. The map is said to show the way to the mythical ”Verdant”, a lush and lost oasis or ”green paradise” long sought after but no one truly knows whether it really does exist. This is what the General, who ordered and organised the attack, was seeking. With very few supplies and Baby alongside her, Delta sets out across the humid, barren landscape that seemingly goes on forever in a desperate attempt to save the only family she has left, not to mention wreak vengeance.

She hopes to reach Powder Town, a place she can achieve some respite after a torturous journey. However, she is soon captured by those who do the General’s dirty work. Can Delta use her only bargaining chip, her map, to assure her and her pack’s safety? This is a riveting, enthralling and truly exciting read with a very strange melding of many different genres, but it works so well and creates a stunning tale. A blend of western/dystopia/post-apocalypse/sci-fi in which the complex, kickass characters fight for survival in a hostile, high stakes environment. Delta is a morally grey yet powerful protagonist who is stubborn, intelligent and fiercely protective of her family. The harsh, rugged landscape is that of a western and this richly described setting becomes a character in its own right; this is the foundation upon which the fiction plot is embellished. The portrayal of grief in this gritty and propulsive novel was superbly done and the epic twists just kept coming. A fast-paced adventure featuring wonderfully detailed worldbuilding that follows Delta as she gains a deeper understanding of love, faith, truth and trust, and although a young adult novel, this will be loved by all ages especially those who enjoy unique multifaceted stories and those who have adored Bowman’s previous books. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for ᒪᗴᗩᕼ .
1,457 reviews142 followers
July 16, 2021
❐ Overall Rating 4⭐ | Narration 😁 = Very Good
❐ Narrated by Laurie Catherine Winkel
❐ Listening Length: 11H 11M
❐ Stand-alone Dystopian
Blood Red Road meets The 100 (the TV version)
❐ Coming of age --YA-ish
❐ Splash of Romance
❐ Cover 💙Love💙


This is billed as being a post-apocalyptic western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl...but I think it’s way more like Blood Red Road (without the slang-like language) mashed with The 100 (especially Season 6)...like eerily so. Maybe, it could even be said that it has too many similarities with them.

Ultimately, my most significant issue with this is; I wanted more...it felt somewhat unfinished like it wasn’t fleshed out enough. But...if you’re jonesing for something to fill the void left by The 100, then this could fit the bill. Especially since the ending for this was way better than the ending for The 100 (I hated the ending...I think I hated the whole last season, actually).

For the most part, Dustborn was engaging, the narration was very well performed and the characters are likable...at least the ones you’re supposed to like, anyway.

🅒🅐🅦🅟🅘🅛🅔 8.00/❿
🅒haracters → 8
🅐tmosphere → 8
🅦riting → 8
🅟lot → 8
🅘ntrigue → 8
🅛ogic → 7
🅔njoyment → 9

Profile Image for Jodi Meadows.
Author 23 books4,620 followers
May 6, 2021
Unofficial comments:

You NEED this book in your life.

Official comments:

With its unforgettable blend of science fiction, dystopia, and Old West, Dustborn is one of those stories that stays branded to your heart long after you turn the final page. Prepare to be transported.

Profile Image for Alex (The Scribe Owl).
342 reviews107 followers
May 7, 2021
See this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

3.5/5 stars

Dustborn is an intense post-apocalyptic rightly marketed to fans of The 100 and other similar dystopian stories.

Delta was told to stay hidden ever since a map to paradise was branded on her back at the age of five. And her pack desperately needs paradise. One problem: no one can read the map. One day, Delta returns home from helping her older sister to find her home burned to the ground and her family captured by a man known as "the General." Delta sets out to free her family but quickly learns a tough lesson--no one in the Wastes is to be trusted.

I loved the atmosphere of Dustborn. I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic books, but the setting in the near-uninhabitable wasteland is one of my favorites. The world matches the tone of the story, making for a perfectly atmospheric read.

The first 50% or so of this book is slow. If it had continued on like that, there is no way that I would have rated it as high as I did in the end. It picked up a little bit past the halfway mark, but a specific plot twist (you'll know if you've read it) around two-thirds of the way through kicked it off to a great finish.

The most significant problem I have with this novel was the underdevelopment of the characters. Delta was great, but I feel like we never got the chance to know any of the others. The villain had no motive and all her friends and family were two-dimensional. Dustborn might have been better equipped for a duology because the characters could have more time to develop. I loved all the action, but there was no time for character development moments for anyone other than Delta.

All in all, this was a solid dystopian read. I probably won't buy a physical copy, but if you can get it free from your library or online, I'd recommend a read!

Pre-read rating estimate: 3 stars
Final rating: 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Melissasfandomworld.
569 reviews115 followers
January 17, 2021
I received an e-arc of this book, thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for me leaving an honest review.

3/3,5 stars
Dustborn was overall a fun and fast paced read from beginning till end. I really enjoyed everything I’ve read, but I also feel that this is a story that could’ve been developed more on some parts, in my honest opinion, especially seeing it’s a standalone. I remain hopeful that the author decides to venture out more into this world by writing a sequel or maybe a spin-off sometime in the future, because it has so much more promise and I feel like this was just the tip of the iceberg. I wish for more development on basically every front and it just doesn’t feel finished yet.

That having said… The main character reminds me a bit of Rey from Star Wars and I loved that so much. She’s feisty, fierce, brave and loyal; fighting for everything and everyone she loves. The minor characters were a fun addition but again; a lot of characters remained too superficial to my taste and I think it would’ve been better if the book was thicker (and with over 400 pages it's not like it's a slim book, but it does feel that way when looking at how some elements remain a bit underdeveloped) or if it would’ve become a duology or something like that. It now made me not As attached to most characters as I would’ve liked.

The dystopian setting is really interesting. Nothing you haven’t seen before, but the author still created a uniquely ‘vibe’ to it all and I loved exploring it all alongside Delta.

There’s enough story present to keep you wanting to finish the book, there’s enough action present, a bit of romance and a writing style that makes this book a fast paced read. It was a fun book to read in between, but not one that really stands out to me. That’s not a bad thing perse of course, seeing it was still enjoyable.

It was a fun read, but I do think a lot of elements remain too superficial/underdeveloped and that’s just a shame with a story that has a lot of promise. I think it’s a fun one to pick up if you like dystopian stories that have interesting settings, a set of characters that has much promise, and a fair bit of action and adventure. If the synopsis speaks to you, I’d definitely recommend to give this one a go and find out what you’ll think of it yourself.
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,115 reviews1,010 followers
April 21, 2021
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight


Okay so Dustborn is a "Shannon" book, no question. And just when I thought it couldn't be any more "me", it did. So I'll preface with this: If this sounds up your alley, it quite likely will be wholly satisfying.

Here's the thing: I was pretty sure, as I started reading, that it was going to be a sort of "run of the mill" dystopian situation. I was enjoying the characters and the world, but I thought I knew how things were going to turn out. And without giving anything away, I am going to tell you this: I thought I knew, but I had no idea. And that is the most delightful reading experience for me, frankly.

As it was, I really enjoyed Delta's journey. I am a sucker for a survival trip, and Delta certainly had some of those. The world she lived in was so bleak, so desolate, so dry, it was quite a miracle she'd survived thus far. The author does a phenomenal job of nailing the atmosphere and making the reader feel how rough things are. And of course, not only is the world trying to kill her and her people, other humans are too. 

Because look, dire straights will bring out either the best or the worst in people. Delta has seen both, frankly. And as such, she doesn't know if there is anyone she can trust. She has a lot of things to figure out, with pretty much zero good choices remaining. And when she does start to figure things out... well, the answers are much, much more than she bargained for. 

While the first half of this book is solid, it was the second half that blew my mind. And the ending? It's one of those perfect ::chef's kiss:: endings that feels both realistic, yet wholly satisfying. I wish I could tell you more about the book, but I am so desperate for you to go into it as blind as I was, and hopefully as thrilled by the outcome as I was! 

Bottom Line: A strong story with a fabulous main character that only gets better (and more exciting) as it goes along!
Profile Image for Ariel • The Book View.
379 reviews72 followers
April 20, 2021
DUSTBORN was interestingly new, heartbreakingly necessary, and even taught me an important lesson (which I've taken the liberty of shortening into one cliche line (refer to the end)).

This world was fabulously built, meticulously outlined, and intriguing to no end. I couldn't get over how amazing this world was even as I continued to learn about it. It was just so unique to any other world I've read about. It was almost like crash-landing on some world from Star Wars and getting to stay on it instead of jetting to the next world. But without all the creatures.

I thought Delta, the main character, was a good main character. She had to endure so much heartbreak in this book, on top of all the hard things she already went through in her life, but she remains strong. She was the only character who could have been the heroine in this book. I also thought her development from girl-who-is-just-trying-to-survive, into girl-who-will-help-others-to-thrive was fabulous. She's truly one of the most thoughtless characters out there.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the romance. You better stack up the wood and sit back with a nice glass of whatever you drink because this is a sloooooooow burn. She burns long and slow and is agonizingly agonizing (in the best way). I loved getting to know Asher and seeing how he contrasted and clashed with Delta. They were so good together. But we don't get to meet him until 1/3 of the way through the book!

I was honestly pretty bored until about 1/3 of the way through the book. That's when things start speeding up. I wish it could have started a little sooner, but I was happy with the book once it did pick up the pace.

Moral of the Story: Don't drink the kool-aid.

Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed a gifted and advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Profile Image for Elle.
Author 1 book31 followers
May 15, 2021
Akin to Blood Red Road with elements of Mad Max, Dustborn by Erin Bowman is an exciting YA standalone that reminds me why I love the dystopian genre. Bowman wastes no time setting up the dire situations that are the stark reality in the dust-storm-ravaged wasteland that is our setting. The bleak world is reflected in our MC, Delta, whose capacity for hope is tested again and again as her losses mount and struggles abound. She is not an immediately likeable character, but her rough edges hold a kind of familiarity that many readers will recognize in themselves.

Asher, on the other hand, is a bright counterpoint to Delta’s pessimism. His unflinching faith and optimism help to keep the story moving when all hope seems lost. I loved Reed’s character as well. I was simultaneously drawn to him and wary of him. The possibility of betrayal haunts his every move.

There are so many ups and downs in Dustborn. It’s gritty, hopeful, tragic, and exciting. There’s violence, but there is also love. I could feel the desperation leaking from the pages. The twists kept me guessing and the characters kept the story alive. Fans of YA dystopian fiction are sure to enjoy this harrowing tale of faith, trust, survival, and family.

Thank you to The Book Terminal for sending me a free copy of Dustborn. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Emmy Neal.
561 reviews132 followers
November 4, 2020
I really did enjoy this immensely, our main is a slightly more revenge oriented Rey (Star Wars) which was not a bad thing at all, imo. Erin's worldbuilding is a masterclass in raising stakes and layering plot.
Profile Image for Kal ★ Reader Voracious.
547 reviews187 followers
April 25, 2021

🎉 Happy book birthday, Dustborn!
Dustborn is everything I wanted it to be and will be a book I shove lovingly to everyone I know and I'm not even remotely sorry about it. Dustborn is a must-read for fans of Mad Max and and stories of humanity's hopeful perseverance in the face of adversity. Honestly, how am I supposed to review such an amazing book?
"The northern sky is alight with ribbons of green and white, dancing and twining above the darkening horizon. A silent storm is coming."
Fast-paced and instantly engaging, Dustborn gripped me with its strong and vivid opening that highlights the dangerous postapocalyptic setting. Bowman manages to balance a quick pace with beautifully descriptive language while effortlessly weaving worldbuilding into the narrative. Expertly plotted and paced, the book starts out running and never loses steam. Light on technology so this is a book that'll appeal to a wide audience there isn't a lot of worldbuilding beyond the setting (what happened to this planet), the beliefs of the Wastes (the stories passed down of gods and history), and the dangers of life in the Wastes (if the planet won't kill you, the raiders probably will).
"'Someday you too will die, and a new soul will take your place. The cycle continues. Even in these wastelands, where our gods have abandoned us, life will not cease."
Don't let the high octane pace fool you: there's plenty of time for the reader to catch their breath. It's a book with high stakes and a lot of death. Dustborn is set in a dangerous world and I was on pins and needles the whole time worrying about the characters (who I loved). Who can we trust?! I don't know but I am anxious about it. Delta has so much love and devotion for her pack, as well as a sense of duty which saddles her with the weight of the world. This coupled with her teenaged impetuous makes for a dogged pursuit of rescuing her loved ones, and I really appreciated her growth.
"Do not carry the mistakes of others as though they are your own. Life is hard enough already."
Delta and her decision-making captures the impulsive optimism of teenagers not thinking things through; I like that she acts like a teenager, but learns from the mistakes of her impulsiveness to share the burden with those she trusts. So often in YA the world is saved by the impetuousness of teenaged characters, but I appreciate how Bowman remains true to her YA character's actions but also tempers the 'run in guns a-blazin' with the pragmatic and careful planning of others. Delta's dogged and narrow-minded pursuit of her pack isn't begrudged on, it's understood, but the people around her are also point out flaws in her plan and troubleshoot with her. It's a far cry from either ignoring the opinions of teenagers because "they don't know better" or having an entire system fall.
"I see now that the wastes turn us brutish and short-sided. All any of us try to do is survive, and that means doing what feels right from moment to moment. I did what I had to. You did the same."
I love how the book touches on morality in times of crisis and cultural devastation. How the water gets muddied between right and wrong solely based on whether or not you are the one making the choice and the duality of those choices. Inevitably societies in a postapocalyptic setting will fall towards utilitarianism - good is based on if it will help the majority of people (the greater good), but our characters do grapple with this throughout the text in various scenarios: morality shifts depending on the situation at hand.
"'And besides, I don't need kids to live. I don't need to settle down with [redacted] - or anybody - to have my life mean something.'"
Can I just say THANK YOU for having representation for women not wanting to have children?! There's nothing wrong with procreating but it's frustrating that it's the default in our society, a desire to not have children is looked at as a defect. More of this, please. Periods are also present and discussed, as well as consent.
"I like to believe that we are more than the actions of our past."
For those of you who enjoyed Goddess in the Machine but found the linguistics aspect of it challenging or unnecessary, this is a great book for you! So much of this book in setting and tone remind me of Goddess but the narrative isn't bogged down by trying to decipher words in text. There are really only two: plas (plastic) and binos (binoculars), and they are super easy to understand based on the content clues.
"Distrusting is how we survive in this world. But to move beyond surviving - to truly live - we need to trust each other."
All in all, Dustborn is top tier science fiction and I can't recommend it enough. Bowman crafted a spellbinding story of hope, perseverance, and love for your chosen family (pack) while touching on compelling philosophical themes if you want to think about them. This is one of my favorite books ever and solidifies Erin Bowman's status on my insta-buy list!

Content warnings: amputation, animal death (pg. 275-278), blood, death, death during childbirth, forced labor, imprisonment, loss of a parent (on page), memory loss (drugging), murder, underage drinking, violence, war

eARC and finished copy provided by the publisher for my honest review. This has not affected my opinion nor the contents of my review. Quotations are from a finished copy and subject to change upon final publication.
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Profile Image for Alex.
457 reviews148 followers
May 30, 2021
Dustborn is so good! I really loved the world. It was so methodically plotted and easy to follow and just AMAZING. I finished it and even though I was told this is a stand-alone felt a sense of loss we won't get more of this world. Because like I said it was so good!

If you want a story that's not driven by what popular now and driven by true and authentic content... something that's built and weaved from nothing into a whole new world you can visualize and feel attached to. A book to just swallow you whole. I think you should try this one!
Profile Image for Jess (oracle_of_madness).
631 reviews41 followers
March 24, 2021
I loved the idea of this story, the sandy and hot atmosphere reminded me of Dune and Mad Max. There were, however, a few things I did not love but I will get to that shortly.
Delta is a badass female MC and she has a good reason to be. Not only does she live a hard life at Dead River, but she also is one of two people with a secret map to Eden branded on her back. One night she takes her sister to receive help with her pregnancy and although Delta loses her sister to childbirth that night, she takes the baby and returns to her people, her family... only to find out that raiders trashed their settlement and took her family to Bedrock which is where a man known as the General rules like an overlord.
The story honestly just gets better and better. What I had difficulty with was not being able to really feel that the characters were being genuine and realistic when they communicated with one another. The way they spoke felt forced to me personally.
I do think this was a fun and fast paced read, definitely original with some mystical touches to it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this arc. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Sarah.
233 reviews26 followers
August 9, 2020
3.5/5 stars. - To Be Released in April 2021.
Thank you NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

To quickly sum up the premise, Dustborn is Waterworld + Mad Max. Water is limited, dust storms are constant, and the everyone lives with the hope of finding the Verdant - a lush, green, and prosperous area of the earth. Delta of Dead River has been branded with a map to the Verdant on her back as a child and told never to show it to anyone.

Dustborn had some excellent moments and an excellent twist, but unfortunately the rest of the novel was just okay. The twist was the best thing about this book, and looking back the author did a great job planting hidden-in-sight clues. Regardless, if you enjoy post-apocalyptic survival books, Mad Max, and/or Waterworld (which I have probably seen way too many times), this book will be right up your alley.
Profile Image for Kendra Cusworth.
200 reviews128 followers
March 1, 2021
3 stars

Dustborn is a fast-paced YA post-apocalyptic standalone. The story is unique and fun and has loads of Mad Max vibes.

Water is extremely limited and there are dust storms and our protagonists mentions never having seen a tree before. Everyone is hoping to one day find The Verdant, a city said to be a lush and green paradise. In order to one day find their way to this paradise, Delta is branded on her back with a map to The Verdant at a young age. The only problem is that no one knows how to read the map.

There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed but most of just felt really okay to me. I enjoyed the vibes and the setting of the story. I enjoyed the twist, although i believe it should’ve been given more time to develop.
I do think this could’ve been a duology, a second book starting right after the twist, where the author could’ve explored the lore/history of the land and what happened to the earth all those years ago. When we finally learned what happened, it was done too fast and felt a little rushed.

There was a part about 65% in where our MC senselessly kills an animal and that really upset me. Animal cruelty in books is just so unnecessary.

Overall, it’s a pretty good book and one I would recommend to those interested in post apocalyptic stories.

Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s book group for the e-arc!
Profile Image for Lulai.
1,253 reviews158 followers
April 21, 2021
I receive an E-arc thank to NetGalley

I haven't really read Erin Bownman's early novels, but the summary of this novel appealed to me.

We feel the influence of Mad Max in this book, the deserted world, dust storms, the rule of the strongest to survive is a universe that can be scary in view of the actual climate change because we know that some regions will transform into this kind of huge desert. I really enjoyed immersing myself in this world which remains simple but effective.

Delta our heroine is a good MC, she has a great sense of family and her core motivation is truly her clan and her people. I found her rather thoughtful and mature, she knew how to make the right decisions at the right time in this book.

For the plot, everything is fluid unfortunately the story really gives the impression of déjà vu, a deserted world, the quest for an El Dorado to save humanity are strings that we have already seen several times and this novel did not manage to add an original touch to what has already been done.

In summary, a nice read but nothing new.
Profile Image for Erin Arkin.
1,657 reviews355 followers
April 19, 2021
I loved everything about this book! Erin Bowman does such a fantastic job with building out the worlds her characters inhabit and from page one (really...the cover) Delta of Dead River had my attention.

A lot happens quickly in this book and I could feel the tension throughout. Delta is our main character and she lives with her mother and sister (along with her pack) in a world where it's thought their Gods will save them from the challenges they face just trying to survive.

The character development was done well in this story. Not only is there Delta, but we know who her family is and how they balance her out. I also appreciated the backstory of how their pack came to be what they are now because it sets the stage for the introduction of some additional characters and clarity further into the story. I know I'm being vague but I don't want to give anything away here...

As the story progresses, we learn what truly happened to the people on the planet and what they have had to do to survive. There is plenty of action and there were some twists and turns that I didn't necessarily see coming so kudos to Bowman for throwing them in and keeping me guessing!

I'll definitely be adding a copy of this book to my shelves and can't wait to read more books from Bowman. She knows how to write a great post-apocalyptic tale and get me invested in characters that I don't want to let go of. Consider picking this one up when you can - I promise you won't regret it!

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Mar at BOOKIVERSE .
328 reviews211 followers
December 3, 2021
4.2 stars

Immersive world, plot forward, movie worthy!

You would like this book if you like stories like Mad Max and books like The Road and The Dust Land Series (actually VERY similar to this series, which was making frown some)

I find the classic dystopian-apocalyptic-survival formula all kinda irresistible. They are usually so "movie worthy"! So I didn’t mind much that this book was VERY similar to books I read before, because I think it executed the formula well and I was never bored.

The worldbuilding is just so good! The post-apocalyptic imagery is enough to keep you thoroughly entertained: desolated wasteland spotted with remains of the old world and chaotic steampunk settlements of shady communities where families are call "packs" and "bloodlines" that measure the time in moon cycles, read the fortune in the stars and believe in a whole catalogue of goods and their prophesy of a plentiful "promise land".

Then there are all the fantastic plot elements that come the world: drought, famine, human trafficking, slavery, etc., which set an overall mood of constant danger and despair. And, in the midst of this then you can’t help but connect with the main character, Delta, and and root for her as she tries to rescue her “pack” after they were kidnap by riders, her newborn nice on tow.

I recommend the audiobook, the narration makes it even more immersive.
Profile Image for Brooke W.
124 reviews200 followers
May 2, 2021
Actual rating: 3.5

Review on GoodReads to come, or read it early here.
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