So, I planned on writing a big post last year or the year before about wether or not the Red Rising series is YA. I do not remember where I fell on the spectrum then but I know, without a doubt, that I fall firmly in the NOT YA camp now. That said, I would absolutely let my children read these books and encourage any reader who was interested to read them. I tend to consider readers a little more mature than the average person or at least in possession of more exposure to various topics and ideas. I think that this series, very much like the HP franchise, builds with each book. By that I mean that The Deathly Hallows is a far more mature book than The Sorcerer’s Stone and I think that each book is more advanced and developed than the ones before it. I think that is a product of both the author growing but also the characters AND the audience growing.
Red Rising, the first book in this series, is usually marketed as YA because the protagonist is a teenager. It seems that for marketing purposes, that is the only requirement for YA. It is one of the more violent books I have read with the YA label but I don’t think it is much more violent that the Hunger Games, which I do consider YA. Part of the reason for my own inconsistency, if it even is inconsistent, is that in the Hunger Games series, Katniss and the main characters are always young adults. The series ends with Katniss as a young adult. As a result, I’m mostly ok with calling the first Red Rising trilogy YA as Darrow and his cohort are all young adults. That is not the case in this second trilogy. Darrow is a full adult with his own young adults and while some of the children are becoming more important characters, the story is not theirs. This is still the story of Darrow and the Rising which is what makes Iron Gold and Dark Age so great.
Iron Gold takes place after the events of the original trilogy (that is the best I can do spoiler-wise) and we see that revolution is messy. Very violent and very messy. Things don’t just become better because the good guys win. Dark Age is just like Golden Son in the way it expands upon the first book of the trilogy and surpasses it. It follows the Star Wars idea that things are bad after part two and in doing so finds a way to raise the stakes by putting our protagonists in awful situations, that are the result of their own actions. Dark Age seems to me to be the most violent of all the Red Rising books so far. BY FAR. There is a scene that is still bothering me days after reading it. Which leads me back to the YA thing. I think that only Americans would consider this YA. We are totally fine with violence and hacking and killing and torture but throw some sex in there and we must protect the kids.
I think Dark Age is the best of the series so far. It introduced the most new characters and still raised the stakes of the plot after four other books that take place across the entire solar system. It’s an impressive feat.