Have you ever read a book that claws through the foundation of everything you ever thought you knew about fiction?
And when the ground finally gives way, you find yourself falling through the abyss of space and you can’t breathe but at least you’ve never seen stars like these before. Then you realize they aren’t stars at all but flaming wreckage hurtling silently toward you and there’s nothing you can do but hope that something will survive the storm.
Welcome to my new, possibly all-time favorite series:
Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
In a society ordered into genetically modified races known as colors, there’s a way things are supposed to run. There are those who rule and those who serve.
Darrow begins as a slave who doesn’t even know he’s a slave. But when he seeks death after all he lived for crumbles, he quickly realizes the world is larger than he dreamed. And he’s about to take on a role only the insane would venture.
Stunning, raw, and realistic. Each character has so many layers. Belief versus emotions versus upbringing, all tied together with personal choice—it’s an amazing and (often) heartbreaking mixture. Not to mention the unique characteristics, the humor, and the distinct voices of each character. Very well done, with the possible exception of one character who acted as a foil by not really having any flaws of her own. 8/10.
Breathtaking and also terrifying. The book is a series of impossible situations that Darrow twists by taking a third option neither reader nor other characters realized existed.
With each book, the world grows larger, the stakes higher, the situations more desperate. There’s no victory without sacrifice. No attempt without something going wrong. Each twist leads into the next, guiding the reader to amazing endings. 9/10.
So much yes. Each book builds on the last as Darrow grows, allowing us to watch him reevaluate previous motivations, make mistakes, and suffer consequences. It follows the very natural progression of a hot-headed rebel maturing as a person and as a leader. 9/10
So unique—there’s enough telling in the prose that one would think it wouldn’t work. Yet it does beautifully.
Told in first person, every aspect of the trilogy is seen through Darrow’s eyes. The things he won’t recognize or think about. The things he brushes over. The contrast between how he thinks and how he acts.
The wordings, down to consistent use of various descriptive words evoking a raw, vivid, terrifying view of the horrors around him. 9/10. Not every book can or should be written with this style, but for this series, it worked amazingly.
The worldbuilding is to die for. The suspense is masterful. Also, the use of implication instead of actually seeing traumatic moments is something worth studying.
It’s as if Darrow’s brain refuses to register or think about what he is seeing, creating split seconds of blankness that carry powerful emotional punches.
I’d give this series a PG-14 rating. There’s language; a decent amount of it. Some of it is unique to the world, some of it not.
There’s also quite a bit of violence, though the author does an amazing job of not having violence simply for the sake of violence. When it exists, it’s there to show the horrors of war. It’s not casual death; there is proper weight.
Though there are romantic subplots, the author does a very good job of handling them in a realistic manner without being graphic.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I’ve only read the original trilogy so far, but I’m going to read the fourth book soon, which takes place ten years after the ending of book three.
Have you read any of the Red Rising books? If not, you should at least try them. If you have, let me know your thoughts in the comments. (And yes, I know everyone won’t love them as much as I do. I’d love to hear your thoughts all the same.)