Book Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

Rating: 5 Stars

Published January 28th 2014 by Del Rey (Random House)
Summary: “I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
(from Goodreads)

Review: I hesitate to tag this book YA because it doesn’t have the same feel to me as most of the other YA dystopian fiction that seems to be hyped a lot lately. Even though the main character, Darrow, is 16 at the start of the novel, I don’t know that he was ever really allowed to be a child. This book is a little but The Hunger Games meets capture the flag. I love the world building and the color-coded caste system, and how the different colors have basically been bred as well as genetically modified to excel at the jobs their color does. Reds like Darrow are basically slaves that work the mines of Mars, Pinks are for pleasure, Golds are the ruling class…

The character development for Darrow is just… mind-blowing. He has an emotional journey dealing with the loss of his wife, then his family and basically his life, then a whole new life with new friendships, deaths, loves, betrayals… On top of that there is his physical transformation, and having to reconcile his past with his present and figure out his own identity. On top of all this depth there is also a lot of action, political intrigue, and crazy awesome world-building. I can’t even with this book.

I listened to the audiobook of Red Rising narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds. The narration totally made this book. Reynolds’ Scottish burr for the Reds of Mars was great, and his singing the Reaper Comes song was positively chilling. He managed to do distinctive voices for the various characters without doing that annoying squeaky fakey voice for the female characters, which I always appreciate from a male narrator. If I continue this series, it will definitely be with the audiobooks as narrated by Mr. Reynolds. Definitely a 5 star rating on the performance!

This is the first book in a series that looks like it’s currently slated to have 6 books so far. Book 5, Dark Age has an expected publication date of Sept 18, 2018, and the 6th book is as yet untitled with a respected release of sometime in 2019. I’m not seeing anything that says if the 6th book will be the final in the series or if there will be more. Just so you’re forewarned of what you might be getting yourself into! I think this first book can really be read as a stand alone, as the major and immediate plotlines are resolved, with lots of deeper plotlines and foreshadowing for the future left unresolved. It does not end of a cliff-hanger, and while I will probably eventually read the other books in the series, I’m not like “AHHH, what happens next?!” Red Rising has a very defined beginning/middle/end that leaves me satisfied with reading just this one book. Long story short, you don’t have to be sucked into a series if you just want to enjoy a single stand-alone book, but the series is there if you want more of the world and the story.

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