Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Darn this book is GOOD!
Pierce Brown is a freaking mastermind. Red Rising is a blend of science-fiction and dystopia with reference to History's greatest conquerors and Greek mythology, and the result is savage.
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
Darrow is a Red, working in the mines below the surface of Mars in order to make Mars inhabitable and secure the future of mankind. Reds are mostly slaves, but he has accepted his fate, thinking he's making sacrifices for the next generations, only to discover that everything he's been told by the Gold caste, the ruthless leading caste, is a lie. After a tragic event that leaves him craving revenge, he is approached by the rebels and given a mission; to infiltrate the ranks of the Gold and destroy them. But to do so he must become one of them. He is admitted to the Institute, the school that prepares the most promising Gold for positions of power, but life in the Institute is a constant war. It's a road paved with betrayal, massacres and monstrocities. Darrow is determined to excel, to rise as a Gold only to bring them down as a Red. For his people. For his family. For her.
“I am the Reaper and death is my shadow.”
The first thing you need to know about Red Rising is that it is ranked among YA books due to the age of the main characters, but it's not a typical YA book. It is brutal, with explicit moments of violence and blood that make your stomach protest, but such brutality does not deter you from loving it. It is part of the evolution of Darrow, of being a good person doing ugly things to achieve a higher purpose, of sacrificing your soul to save many, to rebuilt a society that kills her own children.
The second thing you need to know about Red Rising is that the blurbs compare it to the Hunger Games, which, to be candid, is a poor comparison. Both books have in common the fight-to-death-in-a-secluded-area trope, but Red Rising is the one nailing it; it features politics, intrigue, sieges, genious strategies, feeble and strong alliances, it shows the path to forging a leader that earns the respect of his followers. It is all-engrossing, masterly crafted war games, a race to outmaneuver the enemy and step on him to reach the top.
Kill or be killed.
Deceive or be deceived.
It is conquest in its most glorious form.
It is uprising, in its subtlest form.
It is addiction.
“You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.”
For the sake of honesty, I have to admit that sometimes the terms used were confusing, and I struggled to keep up with the hierarchy and the ranks of the Society. But after Darrow's admission to the Institute, it didn't matter. I was swept off my feet and dived into an intricate and vivid world, I howled in the woods, I wore a wolf's skin and carved scythes in the dark, I stole horses and food, I lost friends to death and treason, I feared the Jackal and shouted “Pax au Telemanus!” until my throat went hoarse. And I was left thirsty for more.
“Break the chains, my love.”
One of the many things I admired in Pierce Brown's writing is that he blurred the lines between right and wrong, necessity and volition. There were bad Golds, those arrogant, spoiled bastards who lusted for power in its most abominable forms, like rape, but there were also good, loyal Golds, who won your heart. Sevro is the greatest example, and so is Roque, and everything was fine until you realised that they're the enemy. That Darrow must eventually betray them in order to deliver justice and free his people. And while Darrow is an impulsive character, flawed, guided by his rage, he is burning bright and consuming everything in his path, his narrative is captivating to the point you can't separate his thoughts from yours. He views those people as his friends, his family, and you can't miss the irony that there will be a moment when he shall have to choose which one matters the most.
“My son, my son
Remember the chains
When gold ruled with iron reins
We roared and roared
And twisted and screamed
For ours, a vale
of better dreams”
Red Rising is an enthralling novel, with its ferocity and radiant world and devious characters, and therefore I kneel and pledge my loyalty to Pierce Brown.