Red Rising is the first in a trilogy. The second, Golden Son, will be released next year.
The war begins…
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.
Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable – and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.
But the command school is a battlefield. And Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda…
Red Rising is the love child of Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games with the grit of Days of Blood of Starlight but with way more intensity and rip-your-eyes-out emotion. Did I cry? Shamelessly. Do I still think about the world? Absolutely. Am I begging for the second book to get into my hands already? Yes, yes, and yes.
The book opens underneath the surface of Mars with Darrow, a Red, and the lowest of the color cast system that rules the human race. When his young wife commits treason, she’s executed. Grief-ridden, Darrow commits a similar act and hangs. But instead of dying, he wakes up to find he has been rescued to help infiltrate the surface of Mars and take down the government from the inside to live out his wife’s dream of freedom.
The catch? He has to win (and survive) battle school first.
Here the book takes a Katniss in the Capitol twist, with the what is all this technology and I’ve been lied to my whole life typical of dystopia. Darrow undergoes extensive body modification that makes migraines look like a torn hangnail in order to pass off as a Gold, the highest in the color caste system that rules humanity, to enter the school.
And boy, is command school brutal. War is ugly. Fighting for a cause is ugly. And in no way is Darrow’s journey glorified. This is a gritty gritty book and very honest to the picture of war. (Think language, rape, gore, etc.)
The setting is what makes this book stand apart. Brown’s world building is incredibly thought out. Though the color caste systems are explained, readers are not coddled from the first page. (So if you hate all the mining terms pitched at you in the first chapters, don’t worry, they go away.)
And if you thought a post-apoc USA makes for a great setting, how about a post-Earth solar system? Yeah, my definition of coolness has just been raised.
In terms of Darrow’s character journey, we’re taken through almost two years of his life. We see his grief, anger, confusion when his wife dies, which just ruins me. We see his anger and his awe at this new world previously hidden from him. We watch growth as a leader through horrific events and colossal mistakes. We root for him as he works through what dream he decides to live for.
The scope of Darrow’s journey is huge. I’m furious I didn’t discover this after the trilogy was already out because I have to wait for the next installment in his story.
Well done, Pierce Brown, well done.
If you loved Days of Blood and Starlight, Ender’s Game, or The Hunger’s Game—you might love Red Rising. If completely understanding all the mining terms thrown around in the first couple chapters and battle strategies would annoy you or if you prefer “softer” war books, then Red Rising may not be for you.