Title: Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)
Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 28th, 2014
Summary: The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, 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.
I can’t believe that I waited almost a whole year before reading this. That’s a whole year I went without this book in my life. A whole year I can never get back.
Where do I even start? This book was so far beyond what I had expected. I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset about being late to read a book before. Red Rising had amazing, developed characters, a plot that was full of twists and turns, and was just a beautiful, emotional read that kept me interested from start to finish.
This book is about a boy named Darrow who is part of a colony of people, Reds, who mine under the surface of Mars and live in awful conditions, competing for food and following strict laws that if broken mean death. But they are okay with it because they believe that they are making Mars habitable for people, that their sacrifice is necessary for the good of the people. Through a series of events that I won’t tell you to avoid spoilers, Darrow finds himself about to die, but instead is smuggled out by a rebellion of people who show him that the surface is already full of people happily living on the world that his people made through blood and sweat, only to be treated horribly and still forced to slave away. The rebellion decides to turn Darrow into a Gold, the highest class of people, and have him infiltrate the system. But to do so, Darrow has to compete with other young Golds in a sort of strategic battle where if you do bad, the consequences are either disgrace or death.
Darrow as the main character really carried the book for me. He was so rage filled and wanted vengeance and blood for his people, so sad and lost when his world gets turned upside down and he has to question everything, but he still has such a big heart under all of that. I loved that he was so smart, but not like genius smart, more like street smart, people smart and very intuitive. He had a way at looking at a situation, seeing all of the possible outcomes, then picking the one that worked the best to his advantage. On top of that, he has such a way of earning the loyalty of his followers and comrades, by making them all equals. He becomes the best leader anyone could want, just not in the way he is supposed to. I heard a few critiques that Darrow was too perfect, but I completely disagree. We see him fail multiple times through the book, but we see him grow and learn from his mistakes. And I don’t think when he does well in the competition that it’s because he is The Chosen One, I think it’s because he wasn’t raised like a Gold and it’s the differences between him and them that really matters.
On top of Darrow, I also found most of the secondary cast to be full of well developed, interesting characters. Pierce Brown had a way of writing that really made you feel like you knew the character’s soul, that you knew who they were as a person right after they were introduced. Every character brought something important to the story, had some important part to play, and the chemistry and interaction between them was so interesting and always felt very intense. Plus, so many of the characters were so colorful, like Sevro who wore a wolf skin and slipped around in the dark, slitting peoples throats, or Pax, the giant who could crush your skull with his bare hands but had a girly laugh and a heart of gold.
I knew I was going to like this book when less than fifty pages in, I was crying like a baby. Some bad stuff happens, but I was already so emotionally invested in these characters, that it actually caused me emotional distress. Fifty pages in and I already cared about the people and felt this world so much that I was crying over horrible the injustice done to the Reds and how they were treated as a people.
The writing style of this book was really strange but refreshing and enjoyable. It was so gritty and kind of jumpy at times, very realistic, but it also seemed so beautiful and poetic at times. It was really effective to me and definitely a reflection of the book itself. It was very sad and dark and disturbing at some parts, but then Darrow’s thoughts or the messages the book was conveying were beautiful and emotional. It had such flow to it and as I read, it conjured up a lot of visuals, so I became so much more immersed in the story and the world. It was refreshing compared to a lot of other YA authors because most of the things that I’ve come to associate with YA books were absent from this one. There was no cheesy romance, no quick, easy plot line, no predictable changes… Instead, what little romance there was felt really layered and had a lot of depth, and the plot was filled with so many twists and turns that I never knew what would happen next. Darrow would always be like three steps ahead, but as the reader you aren’t three steps ahead with him, so you don’t know why he is inserting himself into situations that are clearly traps, or how he is going to get out of them. The constant tension and excitement kept me on my toes the whole time and I loved it.
This book spans over two years, so it did feel like there was a bit of filler sometimes, but most of the time it felt like necessary filler. It was the sort that really built up the world and the characters, so you understood the world and what it is was Darrow is fighting for and why he needs to succeed and bring down the Golds and free his people. But besides that, the story was so quick paced and interesting and unpredictable that it seemed to fly by and the ending just came out of no where. I felt genuinely disappointed when the book ended because it felt like there was still so much to tell and I was dissatisfied with having to stop and wait for the next book.
In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely adored this book. I honestly can’t think of a single complaint about it, except that the beginning is a little slow and confusing. But I promise you, if you stick with it, you won’t regret it. This book is a must read for dystopian lovers, and is an intense read, full of plot twists, amazing characters, a great message about fighting oppression, some great bloody fight scenes, and generally just everything you could want from a book. I bloodydamn loved it.