I read the first book because of a book trailer that I saw in the cinemas. It compared Darrow to the likes of Katniss and Ender. I read it and I admit, I enjoyed it. It was a different kind of YA; it was a more grown up adventure and talked about mature topics but with a 17-year-old hero. He “outsmarted” all the grown-ups and basically started a civil war.
As ridiculous and far fetched as Darrow was, the first book honestly had me looking forward to the next one. Like I said, it was a YA book far different from the rest and I liked that. The world-building was great, character-building was a bit flawed but we can’t expect perfection on a debut novel, right?
But. *deep breath* Darrow is still my least favorite part of the whole story. We see everything through his fake golden eyes but I don’t feel anything from him. From the last book, he’s this rags-to-riches pet project that became the perfect specimen thanks to many procedures and overnight learning. It’s like when he became a Gold (from being a Red), all the emotion was sucked out of him. He’s not one-dimensional but he is rather dull. In my notes, I put down that “Darrow’s personality reminds me of Yu Narukami of Persona 4… absolutely dull.” One can argue that the character called for that but it was like he was just narrating what was going on. Kind of like Katniss in Mockingjay but much more readable. I don’t know, maybe it’s the author’s fault for not being able to put emotion in Darrow’s words. But then again, the other characters do just fine.
How cruel a life, that the sight of my dead wife means hope.
The backbone of the revolution – started and somewhat led by Darrow – is his deceased wife Eo. She represents hope ala Katniss. And like the Mockingjay, she also has a song that spreads throughout the land and energizes the people to join the cause. It’s a very noble cause but if I had a nickel every time Darrow mentions Eo or that Eo is dead… we get it, okay? She died during the first act of the first book. Gotcha. Also in the first book, we meet Mustang, a female Gold.
Part of me wishes I would only remember Eo. That my mind belonged to her, so I could be like one of those knights of legend. A man so in love with one lost that he closes his heart to all others.
I don’t get it. He talks about Mustang here and how he’s obviously falling in love, in not already in love with her. And he knows she wants him too. But the guilt of loving another after a loss… it’s called “moving on”, Darrow. Once again, if I had a nickel every time he goes through this dilemma. On top of all the problems he already had. If Eo gives the people hope, then Mustang is giving Darrow hope.
But Darrow isn’t all that bad. As emotionless as he comes across, there are also windows of vulnerability and inner turmoil; that in his core he’s still a Red and not as clueless and proud as a Gold. He’s definitely flawed to the bone. There are times when I thought that he tricked and used his way up; deception was his only course of action to get revenge for Eo’s death. And in that, I pity him. He wanted friends that he could trust but he knows that he himself cannot be trusted. But on the flipside of that, he’s the main hero of the story. Meaning, all the crappy things that he does are justified for a greater good. Eh. There are times when I just don’t know what Darrow wants to happen. He’s a reluctant leader/hero. Sometimes, I think I know what his ultimate goal is but the next page makes me think otherwise. The third book has a lot of loose ends to tie up.
When I started reading, I felt that I should’ve reread the first book to catch up. It’s been a while since I read that and a lot of the terms were flying over my head. There is a two-year time jump from the end of Red Rising to the beginning of the book. I did like that the action starts from the get go. It’s just that it was a slow-ish start for me because of the unique jargon the author made up for this universe. DemoKracy. Materiel. Just to name a few. But the action scenes are reminiscent of Ender’s Game. They’re thrilling and awesome. If ever they are to make a movie out of this, I am most looking forward to the action sequences.
I do like Pierce Brown’s writing style. He’s very good technically and his world-building is very engaging. There are so many things going on from page one but you will not be lost in the story once you get into it. Darrow may rather be cold but the other characters are great. From the villians that you can truly hate, to the sidekicks and minor characters that are endearing. And I think he’s a Tolkien fan too. I mean, in Red Rising, there was a mention of the city of Osgiliath. Then in Golden Son, Sevro asks this question, “What do I have in my pocket?” It could be nothing but to a Tolkien superfan, The Hobbit immediately comes to mind.
Another thing that I love about this series is that it doesn’t shy away from death. A lot of YA books romanticize death where a character dies and s/he gets reunited with his/her love in either the afterlife or as a paranormal romance trope. Here, you die and that’s it. You can get sliced, beheaded, crushed, burned, bleed… you name it and the author will give it to you. And what it a middle book without a twist and cliffhanger? This has a good and juicy one. I mean, the ending is sort of set up slowly. I did notice it coming but it still gripped me hard. So much so that I demand the next (and final) book as soon as possible.
Speaking of the final book, we have the title and cover here. Also, today is Pierce Brown’s 27th birthday. Thank you for these books and for making me feel like an underachiever. We’re the same age. Happy birthday!
Rating: 4/5. If The Hunger Games can take over the world, this one can too.