There haven’t been any changes to my list of favorite authors of all time for a year now. I’m gratified to say that after reading his Red Rising trilogy and Iron Gold, Pierce Brown deserves to be included in the list.
For those of you who don’t know, Iron Gold is the continuation to the highly acclaimed Red Rising trilogy which has now become a saga; making this book in reality the fourth book in the Red Rising Saga. The story takes place 10 years after the end of Morning Star and to tell you what the book is about—spoiler-free, of course—there’s really no better way than to let Pierce Brown himself explain it:
“Iron Gold is about the struggle to preserve liberty in a bleak landscape, where heroes of the past look suspiciously like villains and the inspiring dream of liberty has been hijacked by politicians, dirtied by social strife, and muddled by interest groups and competing factions.
How in such a world can good prevail? On the back of one man? Certainly not. It takes a village—a host of disparate people who, despite their conflicting views and disparate pasts, must band together to find their own purpose, to replenish the dream of liberty with their own sacrifices and come together for the common good…”
– Pierce Brown
Full article here: https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/1143-rising-up-pierce-brown-on-shaping-our-world-through-stories
There you have it. And as for my thoughts and review, here it goes.
I found the plot to be incredibly compelling; it was extremely hard to put down and the pacing was executed masterfully. Most of the chapters in this book tended to end on a cliffhanger and there wasn’t any moment where I was bored, not even for one bloodydamn page. There’s one very good reason for this: multi-POV. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the first trilogy; even though it was told solely through Darrow’s perspective in first person narration, it was utterly magnificent and immersive. However, if Pierce really intends to continue this series with another trilogy, I seriously don’t think another one-character POV would be a good idea; it would be tedious to say the least. This is why the shift in narration to a four-person multi-POV was a brilliant move. Seeing the plot unfold from several characters’ perspectives with different backgrounds and personalities provided the series with a new level of depth and complexity in regards to both the characters and the scope of the story. I found the story grand and majestic, and I enjoyed it immensely. Pierce Brown really knows how to create a dramatic, dynamic, and cinematic experience in his book, and every character’s POV was engaging and addictive in their own way. It's also worth noting that although Iron Gold is the biggest installment in the series so far, it was still way too short. Each word kept me turning the pages late into the night and Pierce also managed to connect the few loose ends from Morning Star seamlessly. It’s a book about liberty, about penance, about politics, about love, and many more aspects that contain a heavy resemblance to our current society. This is actually one of the many reasons why I really love Red Rising saga; even though the series is Sci-Fi and the majority of the time it doesn’t take place on Earth, it was incredibly scary, relatable, and it was almost prophetic how the mayhem in this book and series seems to always correlate with our world.
“I know it may be impossible to believe now, when everything is dark and broken, but you will survive this pain, little one. Pain is a memory. You will live and you will struggle and you will find joy. And you will remember your family from this breath to your dying days, because love does not fade. Love is the stars, and its light carries on long after death.”
I’ve talked already about the brilliant narrative change to multi-POV, but to be honest I had my doubts about it at first due to the fact that these four POV’s were all done in first person POV, not in 3rd person POV which I’m more used to. However, Pierce Brown nailed it with finesse. Not only was the story more epic in scope, more importantly, he managed to make each character have distinct voices and personalities, even when all four of them were done in first person narration. Although it took me a while to warm up to one of the POV, once I was halfway through the book I found myself loving all four POV's equally. These characters’ emotions, their rage, friendships, loss, love, dilemmas, were easily felt through each word that Pierce carved; it was emotionally impactful for me. All the characters are flawed and feel real, complex, and believably burdened with the past and the weight of their choices and actions; they did questionable things and I love this book more because of that. Humans are complex by nature and this book goes to show just how complex each individual can be, especially when they are all trapped in the cycle of death. It’s safe to say that I’m emotionally invested in all the characters, both main and side.
One of the thing that made this book differ from its previous trilogy is its action scenes. I’m not talking about the quality, because those have always been exhilarating and breathtaking ever since Golden Son. Iron Gold is the same, as pulse-pounding and intricate as ever, but the difference is that the amount of violence/gore in this book. Iron Gold contained a lot of violent scenes, and they were all written elegantly and it made all the scenes more powerful. I absolutely love them; the set-pieces, the buildup, the execution, they were all wonderfully well-written.
Pierce Brown also did a spectacular job with his world-building in the book. It was enlightening to read all about what has happened in the past 10 years, to both characters and the settings within the solar system. We also get to see the characters’ journeys on several different planets, and the settings, atmosphere, and weather were all vividly described in order to enrich each reader's experience within the series’s universe. However, my favorite part of the book was the cultural differences between the colors, how everything changes and yet still the same at the same time. And the implementation of Japanese culture in House Raa family was especially delightful for me to read. For example: the terms gahja (outsiders) that the House Raa used, derives from the word gaijin, which means foreigners, and they all uphold the code of honor and respect that is really famous in the Japanese culture.
Before Brown’s Red Rising trilogy became a saga, the division between those who loved and those who hated the series stemmed primarily from Brown’s prose. Fortunately, I fall on the loving side. I always think of Pierce’s prose as evocative, philosophical, compelling, vivid, and elegantly raw and destructive. In my opinion, he is the only one who can pull off first person present tense magnificently. Plus, in the prologue of the book, we also get to see a fraction of what kind of story he can tell if he writes in third person perspective narration, and in my opinion it was transcendent. I know it was short but it made me wish that one day we’ll get to see him write a full novel in a multi third-person narration. Regardless of my wishful thinking, this once again goes to show just how talented he is as a writer.
“It is my duty as a free man to read so I'm not blind being lead around by my nose”
The year 2018 has only just begun and I already know Iron Gold will be included not only as one of my favorite reads of the year but also as one of my favorite books. In my honest opinion--together with Golden Son--this is tied for the best installment in the series so far as I love them both equally. Red Rising Saga is truly my favorite Sci-fi series of all time and I highly recommend this to all Sci-fi fans. Plus, it seems like the wait for the sequel to this book, Dark Age, won't be too long as Pierce is planning to release the book within the same year, sometime this September!
One final thing. I’ll leave this selection from the acknowledgments in the book for all of you to read because trust me, Pierce Brown understands his readers. Who knows? This could be the extra push for those of you who are trapped in the Bermuda Triangle of Fantasy (George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch) to invest in the Red Rising saga.
“A single, standalone book is a fling. A series such as this is a relationship between author and reader. You trusted me to give me your time, your imagination through the initial trilogy. And, by buying this book, you trusted me yet again.
So my greatest thanks to you, the reader, for that trust. Know that I do not take it lightly, and will not abuse it as we spin further down the rabbit hole.” –Pierce Brown
Side note: The homage to A Song of Ice and Fire is perfection.
“House Leo sends their regards.”
Okay relax boyo, there is no House Leo. I made that up to keep this review spoiler-free but you get my point.