This is a review for Morning Star, the third book in the Red Rising trilogy. Spoilers will be marked, but read with caution if you have not yet read the previous two books. You can find my others reviews here:
It took me almost a year but I finally finished the Red Rising trilogy. I will admit, there is a lot about this series which doesn’t suit me. That said, I appreciate what Brown has done with the characters and plot, as well as how much his writing has grown over the course of the trilogy. Morning Star is certainly the best book of the three, but it is also the one I found to challenge me the most. After reading it, discussing it with a friend, and writing this review– I still don’t know how I feel about Morning Star! I really enjoyed it, but overall I think I didn’t care for it? #Confusing
Justice isn’t about fixing the past, it’s about fixing the future. We’re not fighting for the dead. We’re fighting for the living. And for those who haren’t yet born.
Our story begins 9 months after Golden Son left us with an incredible cliffhanger. Obviously, Darrow has survived (otherwise there would be no 3rd book) and was horrifically tortured. He is severely physically and psychologically damaged. The first quarter of the novel is watching Darrow recover from the Jackal of Mars’s tender mercies. It’s painful, raw, and absolutely brilliantly done. Without Darrow being forced to face his morality he would have been ill equipped to lead this rebellion. Some of Brown’s greatest writing is in the first quarter of book— reading Darrow’s emotional and physical healing is breath taking.
As I mentioned, Brown’s writing has certainly improved over the course of the novels. We have an improved vocabulary and more complicated sentence structures. Brown’s really gotten to know his characters over the course of these three books, and it’s obvious. The witty banter they share is sometimes side splitting — complete with a “Bye Felicia” joke! Each character has their own unique voice in a way they certainly did not in the previous books. No matter how small a character, they were unique. By the end of the novel, I could recognize a character by their speech patterns alone. That’s saying something. And I loved listening to Darrow wax eloquent over his philosophies– even if they did have a tendency to ramble.
“Sevro.” I lean forward. “Your eyes…”
He leans in close. “Do you like ’em?” Buried in that squinting, sharp-angled face, his eyes are no longer that dirty shade of Gold, but are now as red as Martian soil. he pulls back his lids so I can better see. They’re not contacts. And the right is no longer bionic.
“Bloodydamn. Did you get Carved?”
“By the best in the business. Do you like ’em?”
“They’re bloodydamn marvelous. Fit you like a glove.”
He punches his hands together. “Glad you said that. Cuz they’re yours.”
I blanch. “What?”
“Did yon Friendly Giant drop you on your head in the rescue? Mickey had your eyes in a cryobox at his joint in Yorkton — creepy place, by the by — when we raided it for supplies to bring back to Tinos to help the Rising. I figured you weren’t usin’ ’em, so…” He shrugs awkwardly. “So I asked if he’d put ’em in. You know. Bring us closer together. Something to remember you by. That’s not so weird, right?”
“I told him it was odd,” Ragnar says.
“Do you want the eyes back?” Sevro asks, suddenly worried. “I can give them back.”
“No!” I say. “It’s just I forgot how crazy you are.”
“Oh.” He laughs and slaps my shoulder. “Good. I thought it was something serious. So I’m prime keeping them?”
“Finders keepers,” I say with a shrug.
Sadly, at this point in the overarching story, I feel like the twists and traps Brown lays out for his characters are becoming predictable. Betrayal! Backstabbing! Anguish! More blood and unexpected death! …Perhaps this is due to Brown’s style of foreshadowing, but I feel like we’re just watching many of the plot points from the previous books get replayed. It got to a point where I would roll my eyes at some of the ridiculous situations Darrow and his friends would end up in. I practically yelled at the books– “Come ON Darrow! You cannot be this blind!”
The most satisfying component of Morning Son lies in the development of our secondary characters. Thanks to Darrow’s close brush with death, he suddenly understands how important the relationships in his life are. Now that Darrow isn’t closing himself off as such, isn’t losing himself in the politics of Golden life, he is paying closer attention to the people around him and we get to experience that with him. I loved getting to know Victra, Sevro, Mustang, Rangar, and Kavax, Roque, and even Cassius. These characters all get their moment to shine. It’s obvious over the course of the 7 years Red Rising takes place we are finally seeing our children of the Institute turn into adults. Their transitions along this path are tumultuous. We get to see each character have their ups and downs as they figure out who they are and what they stand for. It is almost frighteningly realistic.
“I’m a perfect physical specimen, on and off my feet. Not using me is an indictment on Sevro’s intelligence.”
I roll my eyes. “It’s probably your lack of self-confidence he’s worried about.
Unfortunately, some of the redemption in female portrayal in Golden Son gets wiped away in Morning Star. (I encourage you to check out my rant about this in my Red Rising review!) Yes, the women in this story still show their independence and their strength; they continue to be smart and capable players in this grand drama. Yet… there are little things which distracted me. For example, Victra is constantly showing us she is a sweetheart but an independent, cold-blooded, vengeful killer. She isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.
This is one of a series of examples where I was pulled out of the world entirely due to something a female did which either seemed A) Completely out of character for her, or B) Was not something any self-respecting woman (particularly the super classy ones in this story) would ever do. It was frustrating. But I won’t bore you with more examples. Trust me, I could go on.
Guard your hearts. Guard your friends. Follow me through this evil night and I promise you morning waits on the other side. Until then, break the chains!
It’s worth noting that while Red Rising itself is certainly a YA novel, I would NOT give that label to the next two books in the series. Morning Star is philosophical about war, life, religion, friendship, family, life, and death. It contains piles and piles of violence, too. I wouldn’t call it gratuitous, but certainly graphic. Where descriptions of cannibalism in Red Rising were almost mentioned in passing, here we have details about how cannibalism is performed. It’s… well, I wasn’t prepared. I would no longer classify Red Rising as a YA trilogy– it’s definitely transformed into an adult series.
In war, men lose what makes them great. Their creativity. Their wisdom. Their joy. All that’s left is their utility.
In the end, I am glad I read this series in its entirety. While Pierce Brown never really hooked me and fully immersed me in his world, I did feel like I got a lot from these books. There is some problematic content for me, yes. But it made me think. The overarching themes are complicated and can easily be applied to my life. While I will be recommending this series to some friends, I’ll be specific about who I think should read this. In fact: Are you into Game of Throne? Ender’s Game? Steelheart? The Hunger Games? Star Wars? Then you might like the Red Rising trilogy.
What Do You Think?
- Have you read the Red Rising trilogy? What are your thoughts?
- What was the last book you read which left you conflicted over whether you enjoyed it or not?
- Do you ever read enough of an author to find they are predictable? If so, which authors? What do you notice?
- Are you ever pulled out of your reading magic when you come across something distracting in the text? What catches your eye most frequently?