An epic sci-fi adventure best enjoyed without any large breaks between volumes.
Reviewing a series is tricky. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do want to give you an idea what this series is about. So here’s the blurb for book 1 only. If you want to read those for the others, click on the cover images below to go to their Goodreads pages.
Red Rising (Book 1) blurb: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
I read Book 1 back in late July 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I got to the end I thought, “Well. That was a great combo of Ender’s Game and Hunger Games. Hey, that sounds good. I’ll put that in my review.” And then I saw the dust jacket blurb which said the book is: “a mixture of Ender’s Game and the Hunger Games”. Damn those clever marketing people. And it also goes to show I don’t bother reading dust jacket copy!
Suffice to say, if you enjoyed either EG or the Hunger Games series, Red Rising is worth checking out.
I was eager to roll straight on with the series, so I bounded back to the library and got volume 2…
Oh dear. After my enthusiasm for Red Rising, Golden Son was a disappointment. The story starts well, setting off at a good pace, but it isn’t long before things begin to drag a little. And then some more…until it became a hard slog to get through. I found the events described repetitive: fighting, pause for plot exposition, fighting, pause for exposition, fighting… etc.
However, I’m a compulsive completist and often find the middle book of a trilogy is the weakest, so I tripped back to the library to pick up the third book. They didn’t have it. No library in the county had it. Apparently they were waiting until it came out in paperback. When they finally got a copy in November, I put a hold on it. And a couple of weeks ago my copy of Book 3 finally showed up…
I was also impressed that I enjoyed the book despite the fact that I had forgotten a lot of what had happened previously (there was a 5-month gap between books 2 and 3). To get the most from this series, I’d recommend reading the books as close together as possible. The cast is large, there are many settings, the scope is epic. Unless you have an excellent memory it’s tricky to keep track of everything that’s gone before.
The world-building, the sheer work that went into putting together the detail of Pierce Brown’s solar system-wide society, is breathtaking. On the other hand, his characters tend to either be great or flat. This two-dimensionality even extends at times to the main character, Darrow. In fact, the best character in the whole series is Sevro who, in book 3, is elevated to scenery-chewing greatness. If this series is ever adapted for film or television, Sevro is the role actors should scramble for.
Overall: fans of epic sci-fi should consider investing their time in the Red Rising Trilogy, particularly if they’re able to read the books (almost) back-to-back.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul