Red Rising (#1)
Golden Son (#2)
Morning Star (#3)
By Pierce Brown.
I’m just going to state up front that this series will be really hard to talk about without spoilers. So please forgive vagueness while I try to convey what I liked, what didn’t work, and why this series was so good- all without giving anything major away.
The Red Rising trilogy takes place in the far future, where humanity has expanded their empire out into the solar system’s other planets and moons. They’ve also expanded and ‘refined’ what it means to be human. Mankind is a Society divided not just by the Color caste they are born into, but by the traits that Color has been engineered to possess. Reds are the rough labor force, Violets the creatives, Obsidians the brute warriors, etc. Gold rules them all. Darrow is born a Red on Mars, a miner living and toiling far below the surface. He believes his Color is working to make Mars a habitable place for future generations. He believes that the lives of Reds, if hard, are at least being spent for a noble cause. And then he gets his first glimpse of the surface: already green and beautiful and enjoyed by the higher Colors castes. Everything he believed is a lie.
Taken in by an underground rebellion group, Darrow is set on a path to remake himself and infiltrate the highest rank of Color: the Golds. The plan is to dismantle the Society from the inside out. Even if that means he has to become as relentless as a Gold himself. But even the best plans can’t always account for friendship, betrayal, love, loss, and just how far you have to push before something – or someone – breaks.
Whew. How’s that for a good summary without any spoilers? (or at least, none you can’t get from the Goodreads blurbs) This is a really well-done series, and I tore through it. I started book #1 on Feb. 12. I finished book #3 on Feb. 23. And they aren’t short/quick reads. 😀 They are all narrated by Darrow in first person POV, which is always my preference. I connect with characters more when it’s first person POV. And Darrow is engaging. You can see him change throughout the series, grow more determined and yet at the same time eaten up inside by the things he has to do. And even when the scale of the story is epic, it stays personal because it’s all through his eyes. He’s got depth. In fact, all of the characters are nicely nuanced and real, even the villain(s). I can’t think of one character off the top of my head that felt flat or simple.
The story is also a compelling one. And I liked that Darrow and the main rebels, as dedicated as they were to bringing down the Society, weren’t quite sure what would come after and take its place if they succeeded. I liked the growth of many of the different characters, not just Darrow. While I was sad when some characters were lost, those occasions did add realism (you are going to lose people in a war) and helped drive the plot forward. I liked that the characters were smart, and that nothing about this series was predictable. There was a lot of good banter and clever plans. And I like how the series wrapped up: satisfactory but not neatly tied with a bow.
I quite like the covers. 😀
A few things I didn’t like. I hated where book #2 ended. It was a darn good thing book #3 was already available, because that was not cool. The series is also really brutal in places, so if you’re squeamish maybe skip this one. Sometimes I got bored with the battle maneuvers. Compared to other books, the author does use a light touch and doesn’t bog you down with those details too much, but honestly I just zone out (in any book) when they start talking troops and flanking movements and fleets and that. And I was definitely a bit emotionally exhausted after reading this series, because the author put Darrow & crew through the wringer so many times. It is a not a gentle read, this series. Though that might also be a point for how good it was. 🙂
Overall, this series is a good look at the balance between humanity’s desire to be better and its inherent brutality. This is like the smarter, more grown-up version of the Hunger Games in a lot of ways. More nuanced, more realistic in terms of people and politics. Less teenage angst (and no love triangle!). If you like sci-fi flavored dystopias, definitely give this series a try. It’s a finished series with all 3 books already out, so no waiting!
Great review! I love this series, but you’re so right: it can be brutal.
Thank you! That’s another point I likes about this series: as brutal as some parts were, it didn’t sugarcoat anything. It didn’t try to hide or gloss over the fact that Darrow & others had that capacity, and the necessity for it on occasion.
Agreed! The series was definitely realistic—or as realistic as a scifi series can be.