The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
3.75 Stars (Rounded to 4)
Well, this has to be the hardest book I have had to review. ‘Red Rising’ is a book which I went into blind, with no real knowledge as to what it was about besides knowing that it attracts a lot of ‘Hunger Games’ comparisons. I discovered a book which I found rather enjoyable to read, packed with an interesting plot and fantastic writing. It could have easily been a 5 star book. There was just an issue – I found 90% of the actions in the book to be completely despicable, and I felt that it by no means achieved the ‘setting straight society’ element that it was meant to. I enjoyed the bloodbath that made up 75% of the book, but I felt that the story completely lost its way in the process.
*I’m going to keep this spoiler free as much as possible.*
One thing that I will say from the very beginning: this book is often categorised as ‘young adult’. I have to say that, with the amount of violence and just the general vein that the story takes, I would not classify this as YA, but more adult. Bear this in mind if you want to read this book.
Starting with the positives. Pierce Brown’s writing is fantastic. It was not simplistic, but it was (for the most part) easy to follow. The way he described things painted a very clear image in my head. The slang he created ended up being a rather interesting concept that gave a sense of individuality to his world… once I got to grips with what it meant. The first 20 pages seemed like a mess of words and concepts that I didn’t understand. It took a lot of getting used to, but by the end I understood it and grew to like it. The world took a similar approach. It takes a while to get your head around the many, many colours and what they all mean, but I think I got there in the end, and by the end it was a good addition to the story.
The concept doesn’t sound particularly original: a boy from the lower part of society acting against the upper class by disguising and working his way into the powerful group, then entering into a ‘game’ where he battles it out to be noticed and gain a foot up into the elite part of society so that he can break the system from within. Yes, the games feel a bit like ‘The Hunger Games’, and yes, this is not too different from what you expect it to be, but saying that, it was an enjoyable concept. It didn’t feel like a copy of anything else, and the concept was strong enough and the world developed enough that it stands out despite not being too unique.
I thought that once I powered through that difficult patch at the beginning, I really began to love the story. The scenes when Darrow was still on Mars with his family were emotional, and I was really immersed in the book until Darrow had infiltrated the Golds and began the game. After that, it faded away completely. I felt that it lost the intention that made it so strong to begin with. Rather than focusing on the importance of how the reds deserved the same treatment as their peers, it felt as if as soon as Darrow had integrated with the Golds, he became one of them in every aspect, and the whole point of the quest became unimportant to him. Instead, he was taken over by the urge to kill as many Golds as possible in order to become some kind of king to the other kids. It was a huge bloodbath which I felt did not retain any of the moral issues that the book addressed early on. I did enjoy reading this part of the book, but it disappointed me that it did not feel like the same book.
Of the 2.25 starts I docked, a solid 1.5 of them were over the characters. I did not love a single one of them. I did not connect with a single one of them. There were characters who I liked, such as Roque, Dancer and Mustang, but I disliked most of them intensely. I just didn’t warm to most of them, and I could find multiple dislikeable qualities in all of them. I have to say that Darrow is one of the most aggravating protagonists I have read since Tris Prior. He started off with promise. He was intelligent, witty and understood that he could help in some way. When we hit the games part, however, he sank like a stone in my estimations. He had moaned about how Golds treat Reds prior, but as soon as he gets in there, he abuses the majority of people he comes across. He never thinks back to Dancer and the reason that he was even entered, instead choosing to spend his time plotting which group of people he wanted to kill next. We flick through page after page and chapter after chapter of Darrow and his ever-changing group of bloodthirsty minions murdering anyone who crosses them. The whole point was for Darrow to collapse the system to make the Reds equal to the other colours. Instead, once in the Gold contingent, Darrow just manages to enhance a hierarchy of hatred between the Golds, making his life even harder by embroiling himself in a further power battle. He seems to think that the automatic go-to for enemies is to bump them off, and actually behaves rather despicably to people whom he claims are his friends. I finished the book with little-to-no respect for our protagonist.
I am struggling to review this as, while I did have fun reading it, I have many negative thoughts swirling around my head. This is definitely a book that I feel you have to read yourself rather than base your opinions off of those of another, so if you do want to read this but are uncertain, read it. I may pick up the recently-released sequel, ‘Golden Son’, but it will probably not be until closer to the release of the third instalment of the trilogy. I can only hope that in the future books, Darrow becomes more bearable and the world and Brown’s writing continue to impress.
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