I just finished reading this series and I can’t seem to say enough good things about it. Darrow is born into a universe that is divided into social groups. His color determines his job, his life, and his destiny. Being a Red is not enough, when Darrow discovers that his people have been kept in virtual slavery for hundreds of years. This is his story and how he rises from the ashes to become one of the most powerful and influential men of his time.
Let’s start with the first book: Red Rising
Red Rising is Ender’s Game mixed with The Hunger Games in space. Even though the underdog to hero story has been told a million times, Brown’s first book is a strong effort and it’s gripping.
There was a bunch of hype when this came out and I’ve held off reading it, partially because of that, but also because Brown made it clear that Red Rising was the first book of a trilogy. The last book in the series was just published this month, so I felt like it was finally time to indulge. Also, at some point, it’s going to be made into a film with the author writing the screen play. This could be epic if spun correctly, trite if not.
The level of violence and abuse in Red Rising is not too graphic but it’s intense. I noticed that some libraries have this categorized as a young adult novel and I disagree with that rating. Though, of course, such ratings really depend upon the maturity of the reader and what the parents think that their kid is ready for. I imagine that in ancient Rome, parents took their kids to the arena to see the gladiators so, Red Rising is entertainment along that line. Indulgence in violence has always had a place in society, to a lesser extent now with professional sports games, but it’s still out there. Anyway, consider yourself warned.
One last thought on Red Rising, I was disappointed (until much later in the book) about the role and characterization of females in this world. The physicality of the Gold school would naturally give males the advantage of size, speed, and strength, but there was still room within the shifting politics and strategies for the girls to shine. A couple female characters manage to gain the reader’s sympathy but very few command the reader’s respect. It’s the one small part that I did not like about Red Rising. Darrow loves women, learns from them and protects them, but I just never felt like he met his match even though… but I won’t spoil that part of the book for you. Read it and let me know what you think.
The second book: Golden Son
Still very dark and sometimes meandering, Golden Son is another solid entry into the Red Rising Series. The ups and downs of this world are a trip and it’s not like the author gives you much room to dwell in the in-between. Darrow’s star is either meteorically rising or crashing, which can be an awful lot of fun to read.
The down side of Golden Son, in my opinion, is that it runs long. Darrow has legitimate reasons for the angst, anger, and aggression that he feels, but it simply goes on and on and on. I love the characters and I love the world, but it dragged.
Now, on to the last book, Morning Son! Will Darrow and his friends (are they even really his friends) survive?
The third book: Morning Son
One word to describe this whole trilogy: INTENSE. It draws you in. It makes you keep reading when you should be going to sleep. It transports you to another world. My husband was laughing at me: sitting in my favorite chair, gasping in surprise or groaning in despair at the incredible turns in this story. I had to keep putting my hand over the page so that my eyes wouldn’t skip ahead and spoil it. Seriously. This book is that good. Its predecessors are also enjoyable, but this one absolutely brought the thunder. I loved it.
Brown waxes on in Morning Star (like in Golden Son) but I loved it. His style is reminiscent of Dan Simmons- meandering, bordering on repetitive, but I forgive him. It’s worth it. I’m going to share a couple of my favorite passages now, to give you a taste of the poetry of Brown’s story. No spoilers, I promise.
Darrow, throughout the course of the story, has become a severely damaged hero: “He wants pity. My pity was lost in the darkness. The heroes of Red songs have mercy, honor. They let men live, as I let the Jackal live, so they can remain untarnished by sin. Let the villain be the evil one. Let him wear black and try to stab me as I turn my back, so I can wheel about and kill him, giving satisfaction without guilt. But this is no song. This is war.” pg 35 That’s part of the larger question that Morning Star seeks to answer. Has Darrow’s spirit been crushed by the cruelty of the Golds? Read it and see.
Darrow describing desperation at living in a world that is not free, where your birth determines not only your place in society, but your ultimate destiny: “I feel like a prisoner who spent his whole life digging through the wall, only to break through and find he’s dug into another cell. Except there will always be another cell. And another. And another. These people are not living. They’re all just trying to postpone the end.” pg 71
Man’s insignificant place in nature: “Mars is over our heads, consuming and omnipotent. …I wonder… if the planet does not mind that we wound her surface or pillage her bounty, because she knows we silly warm things are not even a breath in her cosmic life. We have grown and spread, and will rage and die. And when all that remains of us is our steel monuments and plastic idols, her winds will whisper, her sands will shift, and she will spin on and on, forgetting about the bold, hairless apes who thought they deserved immortality.” pgs 145-146
One last passage, about love, because I am a romantic sap: “I was going to say something important. Something memorable. But I’ve forgotten it in her eyes. That gulf that divided us is still there, filled with questions and recrimination and guilt, but that’s only part of love, part of being human. Everything is cracked, everything is stained except the fragile moments that hang crystalline in time and make life worth living. pg 443
Sci fi/fantasy fans, read these books. Right now!
Thanks for reading! ~Heidi