Morning Star

July 17, 2017
Morning Star Book Cover Morning Star
Red Rising, #3
Pierce Brown
Science Fiction
Del Rey
February 9th, 2016

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

(via Goodreads)


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:

Red Rising                         Golden Son


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?”
“They’re yours.”
“My what?”
“Your eyes!”
“My eyes…”
“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. She is the one who takes charge in her relationship with Sevro. She proposes. She decided to take his name, if only because it holds more honor than her own. But she asks Darrow to give her away. What? This completely pulled me out of the moment. She’s shown herself to be a woman who doesn’t give a damn about tradition or what is expected of her, yet she suddenly takes on the mantle of the blushing bride and asks Darrow to participate in an antiquated ritual. It’s not even of Roman origin! This one little detail, seemingly insignificant, jarred me completely out of what was supposed to be a captivating moment.

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?


  • Nicole Kidd July 17, 2017 at 9:02 am

    I was waiting for you to read this book! I felt very similar – I’m glad I read it, but I’m not sure I like it. The trilogy actually went downhill for me from one book to another because I felt like we were rehashing the same scenarios over and over again. I almost never do this, but there were entire scenes I just skipped over (!) because I couldn’t read it again. Good review!

    • Jackie B July 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Nicole! It’s great to engage in a conversation with you about this.

      Yes! We definitely rehashed scenes over and over. I am so frustrated that Darrow never seemed to learn from his mistakes. He wasn’t a particularly likable main character, honestly. I found myself skimming a lot in books two and three, as well. In this final book some of the deliberations and philosophical ideas went on forever. I understand that rhetoric is important for the Romans but… wow. Morning Star should have probably had 50-100 pages edited out in my opinion. O_o

      Do you think you’d ever recommend this book to anyone?

  • Laila@BigReadingLife July 17, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    While this doesn’t really sound like something I’d enjoy, I enjoyed your thoughtful review. The last book that left me conflicted was Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being. I loved parts of it and was bored by parts of it. In the end, I wasn’t even sure how to rate it with stars. I suppose that means it should get a three-star rating, but I would still definitely recommend it to people because it was so original and thought-provoking.

    • Jackie B July 27, 2017 at 9:31 am

      I adored reading A Tale for the Time Being and I completely understand how you might not have been able to rate it. It definitely left me conflicted, too! There is so much happening… and with the changes in timelines paired with magical realism there are times you are left a bit confused. I was really moved by that book, however.

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer July 17, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I have not read this series at all… but I really get disappointed when the final book in a series disappoints!! IT’S THE END!! PLEASE, DO YOUR SERIES JUSTICE! Well it’s all their vision I suppose… but sometimes I feel it is all due to the deadline… not enough time to figure out the BEST ending AND do all the rewrites that are necessary…

    • Jackie B July 26, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      In this case, I just feel like the overall series wasn’t for me. There are certainly a ton of series where the ending disappoints me… but, all-in-all I just think I am not the intended audience. I wish I could separate myself a bit more and think of this as a proper literary critic. I think this series is actually really well done cohesively. It’s just not for me.

      That said, I’ve read some series with real stinkers of endings!

  • Lost In A Good Book July 18, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    I read the first book but something about it just didn’t strike me right. I like your observations very much!
    Also, these are supposed to be YA?! I would never have guessed that.

    • Jackie B July 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks! Yes– it was originally published and branded as YA! Craziness. I assume that was to get on the band wagon of the dystopian-battle-games concept, like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Plus, the characters are all in their late teens when the series starts.

      Over the course of the novel 7 years pass. Our characters are no longer children. And it’s obvious that the writing style grows. I wouldn’t classify these books as YA after book one, that’s for sure!

  • Grab the Lapels July 19, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Ack,I’m into none of those series you mention at the end! I did, however, really enjoy the first three books of the Barsoom series. I believe it has 12 books in all, but they start to get repetitive, much like what you mention in your review. The same things happen repeatedly, but the Barsoom books are more high adventure. Also, I can’t tell when these books are set. If there is a “Bye, Felicia” reference, it seems like the story would be grounded in realistic United States, whereas I had been picturing the story more like a space adventure of sorts.

    How long did it take each book to be published? I wonder if the author wanted his books to “grow up” along with his readers, and that’s why they’re not YA anymore.

    • Jackie B July 26, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Hahaha– See? I will definitely be wary of whom I recommend this series to. For example, if you asked me out of the blue if I thought you should read it, the answer would be “No.” *shrug* But, who knows, you might like it!

      Oh, this story is definitely a space adventure. It takes place mostly on Mars, but we also visit Jupiter, the moon of Earth (Luna), and a few other planets/moons. As far as the pop culture reference– Brown worked or ABC and NBC Studios prior to becoming a full-time author. So, not only is he American but he is steeped in pop-culture by nature of the work he did.

      The books were published in 2014, 2015, and 2016. But I can’t find dates for when Brown started writing them. I get the impression that the first book might have been toned down in the violence-area to make it more appealing to YA and to jump on the dystopian-battle-school type motifs from The Hunger Games and Divergent which were being released as films and books respectively when the first Red Rising book was published. Also, the change in writing feels very organic. It could also be that Brown started writing one reading level and just transitioned naturally to adult writing by the end of the series. Honestly, I feel like many of the themes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are more adult than child-focused… but, the reading level is still similar.

      All speculation. But interesting none-the-less.

      • Grab the Lapels July 28, 2017 at 5:43 pm

        That’s got to be hard to be an author in a sea of similar books/movies. The big question each author must ask herself: is she trying to be famous or be a writer?

        • Jackie B July 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

          It’s amazing how trends like that come up, too. Is it that these authors all had similar ideas at the same time, or that a publisher caught the scent of a trend and pounced?

          I know my own personal mind. I wouldn’t change what I’m writing to try and gain fame, but that’s mostly because it’s not a skill set I have. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other authors who can write whatever they want whenever they want. Perhaps that’s the best way to get in the game.

          • Grab the Lapels July 31, 2017 at 12:25 pm

            If you think about popular authors like JK Rowling, she wrote Harry Potter after telling her kid a bedtime story she made up on the spot. I think these books that seem like copycats actually are the press trying to profit off of what’s popular at the moment. Think about all the Girl Who _____ books. It’s not a coincidence they all have the same structure of title and similar covers. It’s all about marketing. Authors have so little control over titles, covers, and how the book is sold (whether it’s shelved as women’s fiction, YA, thriller, mystery, etc.). It’s why many people are doing things on their own now. Even the comedian Louis CK now puts out his own stand-up specials. It lowers the prices for consumers and cuts out the middle man distributor. Of course, he can be successful because he already has a platform: fame.

  • theorangutanlibrarian July 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Ah it’s a shame this series was not totally to your liking- but that’s fair enough- we can’t all like everything. You are spot on about the books that if you like GOT, Sanderson, Enders Game, Hunger Games and Star wars you will like this though- I liked all of those 😉

    • Jackie B July 27, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Yes! I don’t often feel great about my “read alike” recommendations. Your validation is awesome. 😀 I like some of those, but not all of those… hence the reason I think I’m just on the fence about the series in general.

      • theorangutanlibrarian July 29, 2017 at 7:32 am

        Haha don’t worry- they’re excellent, especially here!! Yes that makes total sense!!

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea July 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Ugh I cannot read this! I always refrain from reading reviews and blurbs for books that come later in a series I have yet to start. I did take a gander to see you gave it 3 stars though. I am not sure how I feel about a series ending on a 3 star note. This is the conclusion, yes?

    • Jackie B July 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Hahaha– I completely understand! I do the same thing when I find blurbs and reviews for books in series I want to read.

      This is the end of the series. To prevent spoilers: I think this is a quality series. It’s consistent throughout and there is great world building and character development. But, for me there is too much politic. I want more character development, less speech making, and perhaps less violence? I just am not the intended audience for this series. As I mentioned to Liis, I think that she might like this– and I think you would, too! There are some darker elements which should appeal to you both. I’d definitely recommend it to you.

  • LizScanlon July 22, 2017 at 4:31 am

    I still need to read the whole series.. even with it’s little niggles, I think it’s one of those series that just has to read due to its popularity 😀 Great review…

    • Jackie B July 26, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      I think that this is actually a quality series; I’m just not the intended audience, honestly. I would definitely encourage you to read it! I have a feeling you might enjoy it more…

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity July 27, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of quite good things about this series, but it has never really interested me. Something about the description just doesn’t pull me in.

    I find it interesting that the series spans seven years! I don’t think I’ve ever read a series that spans such a long time. It would be great to see how the characters start off, and notice how much they’ve changed by the end.

    I definitely know what you mean about how sometimes little random things can completely take you out of the story. I can’t think of an example off the top of my head, but it’s definitely happened to me before, and instead of just letting it go I think about it for the rest of the book, haha.

    I’m glad you ended up enjoying this series overall, Jackie!

    • Jackie B July 31, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      Honestly, I wouldn’t have picked it up if my friends hadn’t so strongly recommended it to me. But it has a lot of positive things going for it, even if it isn’t my cup of tea by-and-large. I totally understand why you aren’t captivated by the descriptions.

      I think I’d find a lot had changed with these characters over the course of the series if I go back to the first book. So much time has passed over the course of my reading that I can’t pinpoint much. And you have a valid point– it’s not often a series covers such large swaths of time for the characters.

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