I received Red Rising from Scootsa1000 (THANKS!!!) and ordered the sequel, Golden Son before I was even finished the first book. These books are bloodydamn great and you should buy them both immediately.
I don’t have the words to do them justice and I’m afraid my fumbling attempt might mistakenly convince you that, “Eh, it sounds like other YA dystopian books, been there done that. No thanks.” This would be a mistake.
Red Rising is the story of Darrow, who is a miner deep in the hellish bowls of Mars. He lives in a future where humans live in a highly structured class system with Golds at the top (powerful, wealthy, genetically enhanced) and Reds at the bottom (weak, malnurished, ignorant). Darrow is Red. Until he is painstakingly and brutally surgically modified into a Gold, so that he can infiltrate the highest echelons of society, and then destroy it.
“I’m a sheep wearing wolves’ clothing in a pack of wolves.”
Darrow, along with the other young elite Golds, head off to the Institute where the weak will be culled and the strong will be brutally forged into leaders. There is a Hungergames-esque vibe to the Institute as the young Golds are formed into houses that battle for supremacy; there can be only one winner. And battle they do. And it is brutal, glorious, ugly, heart-wrenching, and riveting.
Darrow is fierce, angry, and unbendable.
“Darrow is like a stallion, one of the old stallions of Earth. Beautiful beasts that will run as hard as you push them. They will run. And run. And run. Until they don’t. Until their hearts explode.”
Yet he forms a loyal alliance with a rich cast of characters. Cassius, the most golden of the Gold boys who is everything Darrow has feared and hated. And also like a brother. Pax, a terrifying mountain of a young man. Roque, a poet who seems too soft for the hardness of the Institute. Although Sevro is my personal favorite, small, ugly, almost feral.
“ ‘I killed their pack leader,’ Sevro says when I ask why the wolves follow him. He looks me up and down and flashes me an impish grin from beneath the wolf pelt. ‘Don’t worry, I wouldn’t fit in your skin.’ ”
Things move at a rapid clip with frequently unexpected turns, yet this is a book populated with complex characters who shine in quieter moments. Loyalties are earned and betrayed as each struggles to balance their humanity with their survival.
Golden Son, book #2 is the sequel and it is also gorydamned great. Two years have passed and Darrow and those who survived the Institute are now part of the broader society, the Peerless Scarred. They align themselves with powerful houses to curry political influence, money, and powerful positions commanding starships. Now fully embedded in Gold society Darrow plots to bring that society down.
But the Golds are not just the enemy, they are his closest friends and most loyal allies. And there are many powerful forces with varied agendas at play. This is a much bigger story than the first but no less brilliant and gripping. Where Red Rising was filled with brutal battles of young adults bearing iron weapons on horseback, Red Rising has warships where hundreds of thousands can be vented into the cold of space with the press of a button. But it is also more intimate with heady themes of love, loyalty, and loss running throughout. Betrayal and trust are at the heart of this story and I’m still aching from the powerful ending.
“We are not our station in life. We are us – the sum of what we’ve done, what we want to do, and the people who we keep close.”
These are powerful, beautiful, and gripping books. Pierce Brown has done an amazing job and I can’t wait to see what comes next.