Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the first book in the Red Rising trilogy introduced me to a unique world that combines the best aspects of the fantasy and young adult genres. I am always nervous about purchasing a book by a writer I am not familiar with. Red Rising had good reviews, but no one I knew personally was able to tell me about the book. Fortunately, I read the book anyway and discovered an amazing new (to me) series.
Set in a far distant future Red Rising follows Darrow, a 16 year old Red who lives in a mining community deep underneath Mars. He and all the members of his community believe that they are pioneers who are working to make Mars habitable in order to relieve the overcrowding on Earth. His society is separated into a color coded caste system with Golds being the perfect rulers of their society. After suffering a personal tragedy Darrow learns that his life is a lie and that Mars (along with the other planets in the solar system) is home to flourishing, high tech, society. The Red’s beneath Mar’s surface live and die believing the lie because it makes them easier to control. Darrow is chosen to undergo an extreme transformation so that he may infiltrate the caste that has enslaved society and bring them down from within.
What I Liked
I absolutely loved the main character Darrow and stayed up almost all night wanting to find out what would happen to him next. He was a well developed character, rare when the character is so young, who had depths that made me truly care about him. So many YA novels have “Mary Sue” characters who are always “perfect” at everything. Initially I was terrified that Brown was going to make Darrow into one of the nauseatingly perfect characters, but throughout Red Rising the reader saw Darrow falter, fail, and make mistakes. Darrow was also forced to deal with the consequences of his mistakes time and time again.
The world building in Red Rising was amazing and I believe the unique “caste” was handled very well. Similar books make the “castes” overly complicated or ridiculous. Red Rising manages to justify the creation of caste and define their purposes along with how the castes ultimately serve the Gold overlords. Most of all, I adored the caste of supporting characters and I strongly believe that Red Riding would not have been the same without them. Each of the “villains” where complex characters and many where the victims of their environment, the brutality of their caste, and overall perfect examples of how/why the worlds caste system was so deeply flawed. I could write six hundred words about everything I enjoyed about this book, but I do not want to risk spoiling the story for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.
What I Would Change
Honestly there isn’t much of anything I would actually want to “change” about this book and I don’t have any serious complaints. The beginning was slightly slow, but after the book picked up I understood why the author spent so much time discussing the quotas and reward system in the mine. Brown established right away that the world of Red Rising was not one that rewarded the hard working and honest, the world is one that is corrupt that causes the lower castes to suffer needlessly. Once the action started picking up the story sort of snowballed picking up pace rapidly.
Red Rising is one of my favorite reads of 2015 and I am furious at myself for not reading this book MUCH sooner. I am nearly finished with the sequel, Golden Son: Book II of The Red Rising Trilogy, and I am going to preorder the final book in the series Morning Star: Book III of The Red Rising Trilogy. This book is a Young Adult novel that I would gladly recommend to any adult who enjoys fantasy, action, and stories that feature strong characters. This book is often compared to the Hunger Games trilogy, but I actually enjoyed it more than the Hunger Games series. The characters were unique, diverse, and so well developed that I was almost in tears when I thought someone was going to die. Overall, you need to stop reading this review and go read Red Rising.