Morning Star rounds out the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, wunderkind of science fiction publishing the past three years. There’s a movie deal, a bunch of us have read the books, and you may want to as well. Heck, how else are you to weigh in on the many comments on scootsa1000’s first review of the book? (I’m not going to include a summary of the book. I don’t like the official one, and I cannot think of a better one, so if you are really interested I’m sure Malin will show up soon with a really good summary, she always does.)
Let’s start off with the easy part. I liked this book. I liked it quite a bit most of the time. I liked it more than I liked Golden Son, and maybe even more than I liked Red Rising, since I thought this final book did a better job with the pacing. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It does many things well, and several things not so well.
This book, like its predecessors, is very dense. This is both a pro and a con. When you finish reading these books, you’re exhausted. There is just so much that happens and all “down time” happens off page. The reader is thrust from plot point to plot point and Brown never lets up on the accelerator. In conjunction with that, Brown never stops escalating his plot. To the point where I’m often shocked that he manages to find the skinny nuance in which he slides in even more tension and drama to a story that is already full of both.
Another point on the high stakes discussion: we, as the reader, are not allowed to love anyone. Ever. For any reason. Unless we are prepared to watch Darrow lose them. Even in the rare cases that Darrow doesn’t lose them forever, the process is heartbreaking. Brown is very good at hitting the emotional cues.
Brown will attempt to wring every emotion out of his reader over the course of the series, just prepare yourself for that. He may not succeed in making you feel all the emotions, but he is certainly going to try.
Also, on a completely silly note, I still really like the way people curse in this world. Gorrydamn is on par with frakking.
As to the underutilization of women in science fiction problem and if Brown commits too many crimes against his female characters (a topic which comes up again and again if you read reviews of his work): I come down on the side of no, he does a good job (but not great, since I have to defend it) of gender politics in his story and world building.
- Mustang and Victra are integral to the planning and execution of everything that is done by Sevro, Darrow, and the Sons of Ares during the course of Morning Star and its predecessor Golden Son.
- The Howlers are a female inclusive group, and the ladies are kicking just as much ass as their male counterparts. The original group had 50% ladies, and the later additions keep the ratio similar.
- The Sovereign is female, and so is her greatest warrior Aja.
- Orion. Blue Lady Pirate of Space. Enough Said.
- Holiday the ever-increasingly badass Gray Legionnaire.
- Sefi, her mother, and the other women who make up the Valkyrie (as Malin rightly took me to task for forgetting initially. I’m sorry Ragnar! Your sister deserves better). Obsidian Warroiors whom everyone rightly fears, including Darrow.
Things that were not so great? Similar complaints to the previous outings: there are just too many names to remember, and when a character shows up on page after having been missing for hundreds of pages, or a book or two, Brown assumes you remember. And even if you didn’t and flip back to the front of the book to the character listings with allegiances and colors to find a character you won’t – only the “major” characters are listed. Forget trying to remember which Howler is who.
The nitty gritty of battle is boring. I’m a history person, but I still don’t care. This one definitely had less of that than either Red Rising or Golden Son, but it was still boring and I may have skimmed pages here and there to get around it.
Freaking Single POV writing. I know many of you are writers, and I beseech you: if you are going to write books which expand out into a universe give the idea of additional POVs a shot. Not all narratives are served by staying faithfully with one character, and especially if that character is male and we have no avenue for getting into the heads of his female counterparts. There is a plot development at the end of the book which comes to us with ZERO foreshadowing (maybe some of you caught it? I certainly didn’t) that left a bitter taste in my mouth. I understand that the character in question had reasons for not talking to Darrow about what she was hiding, but because she felt that she couldn’t speak to him, we had no way of knowing or understanding her character motivations. It happened time and again through this story and I would have loved a few chapters from Victra, Mustang, Sevro, or even Roque or Thistle. The bad guys don’t view themselves as such, and hearing from those that had betrayed Darrow and Sevro would have made for interesting reading. But the author has to build that stuff in, and Brown didn’t and his books could have.
I remain forever, House Barca.