Red Rising

June 21, 2016
Red Rising Book Cover Red Rising
Red Rising, #1
Pierce Brown
Science Fiction
Del Rey
January 28th, 2014

"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.

(via Goodreads)


Red Rising stands in a class of its own. Like The Hunger Games meets Enders Game with a bit of The Lord of the Flies and Percy Jackson tossed in for good measure. And I know we’re going to see a lot more of the hinted at Game of Thrones-esque work in the future. An incredible amalgamation of genres and archetypes come together in Red Rising to show us YA has not stalled out. It is only beginning.

Red Rising Hierarchy CastesDarrow is a Helldiver on Mars. He is the youngest person to ever work the most dangerous job in a mining community where food is scarce and competition drives everything. They live in a caste system created from years of breeding people to do specific jobs. Darrow is a Red, and therefore mines. The Greys are the guards. The Golds are (obviously) the ruling class. It’s a hard life.

Society has three stages: Savagery, Ascendance, Decadence. The great rise because of Savagery. They rule in Ascendance. They fall because of their own Decadence.

Like most 16 year-olds, Darrow is discontent with his lot in life, grumping at the other colors and what they have. But he finds satisfaction in his wife Eo and knowing that the work they do now will allow humanity to terraform Mars and someday live there. Darrow finds peace regularly in their quiet life, despite how hard it can be. Eo, on the other hand, is discontent, believing the happiness they are experiencing is all an illusion. “Break the chains,” is her mantra.

Through a series of unfortunate events, Darrow finds himself mixed up with an underground movement, the Sons of Ares. Darrow’s world is turned upside down as he becomes an undercover Red in the world of the Gold. Though excruciating surgeries and therapies he is altered to be exactly what the top caste expects, and is thrust into the quest to become one of the Peerless and reach the top of the Gold caste system.

This book pieces a lot of (nRed Rising Mars Landscapeow trope) ideas from YA together to create a vivid, breathtaking, brutal, addicting world. Some of the more obvious ones stood out to me, but in the end, I just coasted along the momentum of Browns writing. After all, the majority of the book centers around Darrow’s year at the Academy. In a The Hunger Games-esque Roman themed capture-the-flag game, Darrow wages war and begins his development as a leader. Trust me. It’s compelling.

Sharpened by hate. Strengthened by love.

Yet, the most compelling part of this book to me is Darrow’s character. Darrow is certainly flawed. He’s 16 when the book begins, and 18 when the book ends. He is thrust into jarring situation after jarring situation. He might end up leading people, but he certainly makes mistakes and poor decisions all along his journey. He struggles with his inner demons, and we are never quite certain if he will be discovered as the Red he really is, or if he will completely forget his mission and just become a member of the Gold caste. That said, I like Darrow, but I am sometimes irritated by the “Chosen One” aspect that follows him around. It’s obvious through the narrative that Brown is telling that Darrow is the only person who can step into these shoes. He is a bit holier than thou sometimes, but I blame that on writing and not character development.

I will admit, I also struggled a lot with the writing style and the pacing. It feels like when the action starts to move quickly, Brown changes how he writes. The action moves faster through words. I found that I frequently had to stop and re-read passages to try and get the image in my head. If it was intentional, it’s brilliant. I believe that in these action packed moments, Darrow is unable to really take in everything that is going on around him. However, it feels sloppy. Either way, I wish the pacing maintained itself. There are other ways to demonstrate this feeling if needed.

Money is power. But of all the things in all the worlds, words are power.

Unfortunately, I also found the way female characters were portrayed incredibly frustrating. Red Rising QuoteThey were obviously only present to be catalysts for the story arc and ways to help Darrow develop. Even our strongest female characters are quickly willing to cast everything aside for Darrow. There is also a recurring theme of sexual violence and rape, specifically with women as the victims. For example, at one point Titus is leading House Mars and begins to rape his female slaves and brutalizes them in his rape tower. Yes. It’s addressed this way. He has a rape tower. There is no real reason that this needs to occur. In fact, there are three total rape-scenarios where the man who comes to save the day is none other than Darrow. If Darrow is saving everyone from these rapes, I wonder how frequent rape is elsewhere? There is potential for discussion around sexuality and sexual violence that I hope is introduced in Golden Son. It was alluded to in this book, but we didn’t get to see a lot about the Pinks– the portion of the caste which exists purely for the pleasure of others.

I will grow my legand and spread it amongst the peoples of all the worlds until I am fit to lead the armies that will break the chains of bondage, because I am not simply an agent for the Sons of Ares. I am not simply a tactic or a device in Ares’s schemes. I am the hope of my people. Of all people in bondage.

All in all, a very engaging YA novel– plus, we have a realistic, compelling male protagonist. I feel like we’ve seen a lot of Katniss and not a lot of Ender in our literature lately, so I’ll gladly take hold of this. It has some distraction flaws, but rumor on the street is that Golden Son surpasses this book. I wonder if that’s true in my eyes? I look forward to the rest of the trilogy!

4 stars


  • Laura Williams June 21, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Totally agree with the spoiler portion; I think you outlined it well. I’ll be curious to see how your assessment pans out as you finish the series. I can’t say more without giving away too much! 🙂

    PS – my own tag!! <3

    • Jackie B June 24, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you! I spent a lot of time thinking about what really bugged me about Red Rising after we finished talking, and that turned out to be it. But, as Golden Son proves, Brown is not done with his surprises yet. I hope to see some redemption of those moments as I continue the series… We shall see how it ends!

      You totally get your own tag. 🙂

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer July 17, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    “This book pieces a lot of (nRed Rising Mars Landscapeow trope) ideas from YA together to create a vivid, breathtaking, brutal, addicting world. Some of the more obvious ones stood out to me, but in the end, I just coasted along the momentum of Browns writing. After all, the majority of the book centers around Darrow’s year at the Academy. In a The Hunger Games-esque Roman themed capture-the-flag game, Darrow wages war and begins his development as a leader. Trust me. It’s compelling.”

    This was my favorite part of your review!! You captured me with Brutal addicting world and development as a leader! Okay, this may need to be bumped up… I love dystopia and that people are mixing in fantasy and sci-fi elements to differing affects. Would you suggest I read this even though you were disappointed with book #3?

    • Jackie B July 26, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      I would definitely suggest you read this series. There is a lot going for it! Plus, I’d absolutely love to see what you think of the series from your lens: the Perspective of a Writer.

      I do so much mood reading that I struggle to separate my feelings from proper literary criticism. I feel like overall Brown did a great job creating a believable universe with consistency and depth. The characters all have their own interesting and unique developments. I honestly wonder if my disappointment in book three really just stems from waiting so long after reading book 2 before picking up book 3. Perhaps I missed subtlety and nuance in my Swiss cheese memory?

      • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer July 27, 2017 at 12:23 am

        I do want to read it and have heard generally positive things… I’m going through my TBR from oldest to newest to try to find books I want to read soon… I appreciate so much that you enjoy my perspective! ♥️ I’ve been feeling down lately so you made my day, Jackie!

        I wrote a discussion post recently about that same struggle and wondering if I should just rate how I felt when I was done with the book (mood) I call it taste in my post or if I should do it based on my perspective, basically the storycraft… I’m split on it to be frank!

        • Jackie B July 27, 2017 at 8:37 am

          Where do you keep your TBR? How long is it? I’m just wondering if I can 1) stalk it and 2) figure out how long it will take you to get to this book series. It sounds like you’re super busy with both reading and blogging, though! I don’t know how you can get so much done so quickly. It blows my mind.

          I’m also glad I could lift your mood a bit. I love reading your posts! Keep ’em coming.

          Can you post a link to your discussion post? I want to check it out– but I can’t seem to find it. O_o I’m not great at searching within blogs, apparently.

          • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer July 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm

            Goodreads! Over a 1,000 but I’m working on it! Honestly I work on it in the morning before work and at night after dinner. It’s a lot and I was pushing to get reviews caught up this month…

            My 2nd Discussion // Not to My Taste… BUT…? // Rating Woes – Perspective of a Writer
            Sorry, it’s under features and discussion journal banner, lol, I think it’s just I have a ton of features…

            • Jackie B July 31, 2017 at 12:18 pm

              I just don’t have the commitment level or focus to spend that much time on reviews! I am so proud of you for sticking to this. Great job! I just sorta… let things slip by accidentally. O_o

              I’ll have to check out that post– thanks for proividing the link!

  • Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks August 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Ooh, it’s so nice to see the pyramid! I’ve actually not seen it yet. I’m not sure I’m even completely aware of all the castes, cause some of them have only been mentioned in passing.
    Yep, I loved Darrow’s character as well 🙂 and he has such great growth. Both physical, and through all the pain – mental and soul growth as well. I hope there will be more growth with the further books.
    I also have to mention Titus. So shocking that he was a Red too! And… such a different one. And true to life as well. Same circumstances, different choices. I loved that about this book.
    The rape.. Well, it’s a thing. It’s certainly a thing. And I believe, in a society as they had in the teaching grounds? That’s precisely what would have happened. Also, other characters and groups of characters reacted to the rape tower by disgust, which is what should be seen. So it’s not like they condone it… they just showed a very ugly face of humanity – which, unfortunately, exists.
    Also? I didn’t feel like this was YA? O_o it lacks the overall happy-go-lucky + banter YA tone that every (or almost every other) YA novel has. It is much too gory to be YA. It’s much too sexual to be YA. NA at best! YA is supposed to be free of all the stuff a young teen shouldn’t read. This is FULL of stuff they shouldn’t even come close to!

    • Jackie B August 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Ah, yes. you probably haven’t been introduced to all the castes yet. That’s a good point about book 1! And I also completely forgot that I used to use images more frequently in my posts! That takes me back…

      There will be a TON of character growth as these books continue. I really appreciate how Darrow grows the most, I think. He undergoes some serious transformations throughout these books! It’s really interesting to compare Titus and Darrow. Remind me about this theme once you’ve read the next two books. I have more thoughts on how this carries through the series to discuss with you. Because DUH.

      I completely agree that this isn’t YA! I actually wrote about that in my final review– I feel like this series was labeled as YA for book 1 just to get on the dystopian-brutal-school thing Divergent and The Hunger Games brought to the scene. While the reading level might be younger, it shouldn’t be read by young kids. In fact, my library shelves all these books under adult science-fiction. So yet– you’re totally on point there. I completely agree.

      • Evelina August 4, 2017 at 1:53 pm

        I only said so cause your review says it’s YA xD I hope I get to read the other instalments soon (sale!) because I really don’t want to forget, and I loved it so much! Now I’m even more curious about Titus when you say that.

        • Jackie B August 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm

          This review did, you’re right! Silly publishers and marketing! How dare they trick and mislead us?! Shenanigans!!!

          Also, sales are THE BEST

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