The Red Rising Trilogy
by Pierce Brown
The Red Rising Trilogy is an inspiring, yet heart-wrenching story about Darrow, a young Martian miner (known as a “hell-diver”) who, as a “Red” in a society built around a color caste system, is at the bottom of the hierarchy. Thrust into a covert struggle to fight against the “Golds” (the highest caste) and eliminate the system once and for all, Darrow’s story will evoke you emotionally from start to finish. I will be reeling from this trilogy for quite a while.
There were a lot of things about this trilogy that reminded me of other series I’ve read (and loved). It has the same elements of overcoming oppression and deadly competition that I loved so much about the Hunger Games Trilogy. The characters, environment, dialogue, and overall grittiness of the story was as equally provoking as that found in the Game of Thrones series. Later in the trilogy, the tactical nature of the space battles and other military strategy reminded me of, well, pretty much every epic science fiction I’ve ever read. That being said, it managed to resonate with all these other titles while still being unique enough to stand solidly on its own. Because of that, I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like it.
So, let’s have a spoiler-free look at each book:
As first books go, Red Rising was a strong one. Immediately immersing you into Darrow’s world, it will likely make you feel emotionally invested in his plight within the first few chapters (it sure did for me). Most of the characters introduced in this first book are young, so it was particularly interesting to watch them face challenging obstacles and come into their own convictions. Red Rising takes place predominantly at an elite military academy for the children of the most prestigious Golds, a setting which is easily my favorite part about the first book (if not the series). It boasts plenty of strategy and “game” play, which I liked. The struggle to win and emerge at the top of this training and competition was as morbidly fascinating as it was deadly. The friendships and enemies made here set the stage for the rest of the series. Between the great characters, cool story, and setting, I had a difficult time putting it down.
As the second book in the trilogy, Golden Son held up pretty well. It boasted the same quality of characters, gut-wrenching story line, and use of competition and strategy, just on a bigger scale. While the first book maintained a relatively narrow focus, this one encompassed a much broader perspective, particularly in how Darrow viewed the world. Many of the other color-casts interacted with Darrow (the diversity of which was by favorite element of this book), giving him the much-needed illumination of what this struggle will mean for everyone, and not just the Reds and Golds. There was also a lot more politicking, strategizing, and moving pieces to keep track of, which made the story more dynamic. Overall, I thought Golden Son did an excellent job at broadening the conflicts, thereby setting things up nicely for the final book in the series.
This is the book where, naturally, all the conflicts come to a head. I expected epic battles, huge throwdowns between the heavy hitters, and to have my emotions jerked from one extreme to the other. What I did not expect was the colossal amount of character growth, which took the story from entertaining to almost… personal. It narrowed the conflict for a bit and forced the characters to really analyze their priorities and solidify their convictions within this fight. Morning Star was easily the most powerful of the three books, and it was downright inspiring to watch the characters face their weaknesses, then use that newfound strength to invoke change and inspire others. Pierce Brown did an excellent job escalating the series to these final, breathtaking moments. At the end of the day, I am very satisfied with how the series concluded.
Overall, is the Red Rising Trilogy worth your time? Absolutely! Especially if you liked the gritty, evoking storytelling of series like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. I can definitely see myself recommending it for years to come. Fair warning though: profanity, violence, and sexual references.
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