Editorial Review: Sunstruck by Melissa Bellis
A young man on a quest to find his missing brother teams up with a mysterious girl as the two journey through a scorched world where the rays from the poisonous sun are lethal.
Dustin is a nineteen-year-old who grew up in the desert underneath a poisonous sun that can kill in minutes. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where something went very wrong, but Dustin isn’t some heroic savior with plans to save everyone. Instead, he’s merely a young man on a mission to track down his missing brother using an ancient map he inherited from his grandfather.
During one of his ventures into the desert, Dustin encounters Olivia, a mysterious ocean city girl who is having trouble with vicious bandits. Dustin knows that to survive in the desert he has to make the right decision at the right time, but he listens to his gut and saves Oliva from the bandits. This sets in motion a chain of events that results in Dustin’s map getting stolen. Although Oliva offers to help him get it back he’s unsure if he can trust her as she’s clearly not just the ordinary merchant who she claims to be. Ever since his brother vanished Dustin has been seeking the elusive Brotherhood of Waterfinders, but while taking on the perils of the desert along with Oliva he discovers far more than what he ever expected.
All too often in post-apocalyptic novels, the world is merely an interesting backdrop for the action. However, in Sunstruck the ever-present dangers it holds amplifies the tension and makes every misstep or setback that the characters face even more nail-biting. The story alternates between Dustin and Olivia as both battle their own demons and follow their agendas. However, the author still manages to weave in some interesting twists and plot elements that will keep readers guessing right up until the end. Due to the setting, a lot of the story is centered around survival and the author does a great job with emphasizing how bleak and perilous the world is in Sunstruck.
Throughout the story, there are some flashbacks featuring Dustin and his brother, which highlights why he is so determined to find his missing sibling. However, Olivia’s backstory and motivations are less clear, which adds to the drama and intrigue. Sunstruck also features an interesting supporting cast of characters and villains.
Overall, Sunstruck offers a great balance of likable lead characters, an engrossing storyline, and great world-building. It is easy to get drawn into the story and there is never a dull moment as Dustin and Olivia’s journey takes them from one location to the next. Avid science fiction fans will also appreciate the nod to the classic Frank Herbert series, Dune, with the appearance of a terrifying sand-dwelling creature, but the story never feels derivative or predictable. Sunstruck is a book that will keep readers hooked until the very end and hopefully, this won’t be the last time Dustin and Olivia’s paths cross.