Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I am having a really hard time right now deciding what to read next, I have so many amazing books on my TBR shelf that it's taking something pretty special about a book to make it to the top of my list. Lately, I've heard a few people really raving about how great the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is and feeling like I'm somehow coming a little late to the party I felt like it was about time I tried the first book in the series to see if I buy into all the hype.
Set in the future, on the planet of Mars, we follow Darrow, a low red whose life is dedicated to drilling to prepare the planet of Mars for the higher ranks of humans to be able to live there. Darrow's life is hard, he has to survive with little food and low resources, fighting to try and drill the most in order to try and win extra rations for his group of reds. The system is rigged against them as Darrow finds out and discovering that the highest ranks of human, known as Golds, will never allow them to rise from their place, nor allow any other group of people to break out of their roles supporting their lifestyle Darrow knows he must do something.
Recruited by a resistance organisation Darrow is asked to infiltrate the school where the children of the Golds go to rise to the very top of their cache. He is asked to rise as high as he can and do his best to reach the top so he can be guaranteed an important position in their society where he will be best placed to help bring them down. Red Rising is the story of Darrow's journey from Red through the trials the Institute will set before him and the people he will meet along the way.
The first thing about this book that I kept forgetting was that it is based on Mars. Much of the story feels more primitive than a race who has evolved to superior technologies. Much of the task that Darrow has to undertake finds him playing a giant game of Capture The Flag against groups of other Gold children in the Institute. Separated into different Houses they must battle each other to conquer all the other Houses. This meant gritty, often violent warfare with little technology and they are fighting hand to hand combat and foraging for food in vast forests and highlands. It felt like Game of Thrones, certainly not Mars. That's not a bad thing, for me it was refreshing that I could forget that at it's core this should have felt more sci-fi. Instead it was deliciously dark and gritty and full of lots of politics and backstabbing.
The characters, there are so many in this book. They flit in and out so quickly that sometimes it's hard to keep track of them all. Also, may are changing their alliances and motives throughout so it keeps you on your toes. That said though it still manages to make you fall in love with many along the way. There are losses and just because we've invested our emotions in a character doesn't guarantee them safety. Prepare to be devastated as some favourites make their exit early. Darrow though is a thoroughly engaging lead character and makes you want to root for him throughout. He isn't unflawed, he makes mistakes in this book but he's learning from them. And as for Mustang, well she could very well be my favourite of all.
I can absolutely see why people rave about this series, this was a good solid opening book if at times it felt a little like we forgot our original agenda, to infiltrate Gold society. This book is an insular introduction for Darrow into the world of Golds. He's dealing with their children but not the real power players, this is clearly ahead for him in the series books to come and I am excited to get to these. For me I don't love the hand to hand warfare so much as I love the politics, those conversations where power shifts and secrets are revealed and relationships built. There was much of that in Red Rising and I loved it but I'd like much more of that in the books ahead as Darrow's journey moves on. I want to more about the society outside the Institute rather than within the game they set up for this book.
All in all a good start to the series with much promise to come in the books ahead. A solid 4 out of 5 star read for me.