This series. THIS SERIES, GUYS.
I feel like I’ve been on the most action packed, heart-breaking, riveting journey ever and the only thing helping me cope with the fact that it’s over is well, the fact that it’s not – because Brown just published the first book in a new trilogy set ten years after the events of this series.
This is another one I put off reading for years (I really need to stop doing that) and once again, I realise I’m a complete dolt because it’s AMAZING. Where do I even start? This is the point where you all quote The Sound of Music at me and say, at the very beginning. Prepare yourselves though. I’m terrible at concise writing when reviewing just one book and this is three. So don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Our story is set in a future in which humanity has spread out across the solar system. Society is organised into a very strict class system broken down by colour. Each colour has its own visual characteristics, strengths, and roles in society. At the top of the pyramid are the Golds, the ruling elite who spend their lives lazing about in luxury, politically scheming, and playing at war with one another. At the very bottom we have the reds, labourers who mine under the false belief that they are making planets habitable for colonisation, unaware that such an end was achieved long ago. Why, hello there dystopia….
Enter Darrow, our overachieving protagonist. Well, not yet. At this point he’s just a sixteen year old, Mars born drill operator, trying to score some extra food for his family and very much in love with his wife, Eo. Is he willing to try and look beyond the awful little bubble he currently lives in? Nope. That is, until Eo is executed by Golds following a small act of rebellion, her final words a call to arms for low colours to rise up against their oppressors. Still with me? Good. Cause it’s about to get interesting.
From here Darrow is introduced to the Sons of Ares, a rebel alliance determined to remake society. Problem is, the only way to do it is to get a man on the inside, and not just the inside but close to the top. Remade Gold in mind and body, Darrow is accepted into an elite academy. Here, students are sorted into twelve houses and placed inside an enormous arena in a yearlong battle of wits, strategy, and violence to determine which house, and individuals, will rise above the rest. It’s a little bit Hunger Games, a teensy bit Divergent, a splash of Game of Thrones, and a whole lot of awesome.
Survival of the Fittest (And Most Devious)
For the first fifty or so pages of the book, I’ll be honest, I was bored out of my little brain. I sat there questioning myself, as you do when reading a hyped book, going: is there something wrong with me? Then, thank god, they ripped Darrow’s body apart and built him up again. Yes, I know how bad that sounds but this is the point where the story kicks into gear and I latched on like a twelve year old whose just come face to face with Harry Styles. By the time we’d entered the arena, I couldn’t put the book down.
Ah, the arena. This is where the magic happens. If by magic you mean scheming, murder, rape, cannibalism and backstabbing. In order to win the game, you have to be the last house standing. To do so, all other houses must be knocked out by either wounding their members so badly they need to be evacuated or marking them with a house standard so that they become slaves. How they go about doing this is the fun part of the book as each house has their own resources and leaders with different approaches to winning. What makes things even more interesting is that within specific houses, especially Darrow’s, there are certain individuals who are willing to cut down members of their own team for more power and a chance to shine in front of the Gold higher ups (they’re watching the game on video screens to decide who to give apprenticeships to). This is the sort of book where you never know exactly how things are going to play out or if you do, when.
This is a book with quite a large roster of characters and it only continues to grow over the series. As a protagonist, Darrow is emotionally complex but here’s the problem. With each success, he’s the kind of person who grows increasingly more arrogant and annoying. Why? Because he seems to be good at pretty much everything that matters. Intelligent, brave, a quick learner, able to inspire loyalty – he’s essentially the perfect leader. This isn’t just an issue with RR and runs throughout the trilogy. HOWEVER Brown has a very effective method of compensating for this flaw in his MC: He hits Darrow over the head with the plot whenever he starts to get just a bit TOO cocky.
Think you’re on top of the world? Oh ho! Here, Darrow, have a life threatening wound to the gut, or how about betrayal by a close friend? In his defeat, we, the reader then remember why we liked him just in time for the cycle to repeat itself.
Aside from Darrow, RR is populated by a number of other strong, memorable and complex characters. To name just a few, you’ve got:
- Mustang, Darrow’s love interest, and a bad-ass fighter and strategist if ever there was one.
- Sevro, the foulmouthed lone wolf who finds somewhere to belong for the first time in his life
- The Jackal, the frightening leader of House Pluto whose bloody reputation precedes him in a big way.
- And Cassius, bound by rigid ideas of honour and whose entire story line can be summed up as:
**Except replace father with brother.
Overall, 4.5 stars with half a star deducted for a boring beginning.
The problems I had starting book one, gone. What is this middle book syndrome people speak of? Because there ain’t none of that crap here. Book two was a fantastic ride from start to finish and my first five star read for 2018.
It’s been two years since the events of RR and Darrow is finishing up his final year at the Academy, but the real work is just beginning. Fissures have begun to erupt within the Sons of Ares and when Darrow’s position amongst the golds begins to crumble, he is forced to seek out new allies. This soon evolves into a war amongst the Golds not only for control of Mars but leadership of The Society as a whole. After all, what better way to destroy your oppressors than to have them do it themselves?
The Action Never Stops
This is one for the action fans, it’s the race car of sci-fi books. Zero to one-hundred and foot on the pedal the rest of the way. You’d think it’d get exhausting after a while but somehow it doesn’t! There’s always something happening – whether it be an epic space battle, some sword play (well, ‘razors’ are the weapons of choice in this series), or even just a highly charged discussion. Strap yourselves in folks, it’s gonna be a wild ride.
More Fantastic Characters
The characters in RR are great but GS is where some familiar faces such as Mustang and Sevro really shine. GS also introduces several other wonderful new favourites including blunt and ruthless, Victra and the loyal but deadly giant, Ragnar. Brown manages to maintain a healthy attachment in his readers to each of the major characters, (even some of the more minor ones) but what’s even better is the great relationships between the characters themselves. These create some wonderful moments between certain parings and the occasional section of amusing group dialogue in the middle of some messy situations. After all, we all want someone to root for, don’t we?
Plot Twists & a Cliff Hanger
You know those annoying books that manage to hit you with a plot twist right at the end that leaves you screaming because (a) the characters are in the most completely terrible position imaginable and (b) you need to read the next one to find out what the hell happens? Yeah, this is one of those.
Screw you, Pierce Brown.
A huge death, a betrayal by a major character, a reveal…I want to hate you, Brown-ey I really do, but the storytelling here is just so good, and completely altered the direction of the series going into book three, that I can’t. I freaking can’t because I love you so much.
Five stars. Easy.
The end of the road, except, not really. You have no idea how worried I was going into this book about being disappointed by the conclusion, but I needn’t have been because MS ended up being my favourite book of the Red Rising trilogy.
At long last the war we’ve always known was coming is here and Darrow has to use all of his resources and allies to bring the Golds down once and for all.
Man, this is a book that knows where to hit you and hard. There are moments of triumph, pangs of the heart, and scenes of just downright despair. MS starts off in a pretty dark place after the end of GS and it’s soul crushing, to put it mildly. From there we have to make it through tests of our favourite bromance (Sevrrow), the death of ANOTHER major character (*shakes fist* Damn you, Brown!!!), PTSD and massive amounts of destruction.
Yet, there’s also the redemption of one character, a wedding, some wonderful moments of friendship, and an epilogue so lovely it’ll make your heart do a Grinch and grow three sizes (even though it’s too bloody short).
The world building throughout the RR series has been phenomenal but I have to say, that you don’t realise the full extent of it until this book. Brown has done an absolutely fantastic job creating the world (er, universe?) of these books – the people, history, technology, environments, language, everything really. The scale is mind boggling and will take multiple re-reads to pick up on all of the details. You just want to see more and more of it. There’s so much material just waiting to be unearthed from this universe and I will gladly return to it.
Last, but not least. One thing I really love about this series is Brown’s unwillingness to shy away from the fact that none of the characters in these books are heroes. Darrow in particular constantly acknowledges that he has had to do some pretty terrible things to achieve what he sees as the greater good and that he’s likely damaged his soul in the process, but it’s a necessary sacrifice he has to make to fulfil the role he’s been given.
More importantly, the characters in MS don’t claim to know where society can go from here or that it’ll be some fantastic new world order. They just know that it has to be better than this. The series ends on a note of hope but it doesn’t ignore the truth that a better world is still a long way off. Progress requires time and work, and there’s always the risk that after everything that’s happened, they won’t succeed, but they’re going to do their damndest to get there.
Five big stars and a big hug for giving me a new series to add to my list of favourites. I will be shoving these ones down the throat of everyone who will listen. Be prepared.
Now, where is my copy of Iron Gold…I’m coming for you.