Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Rating: 8/10

Synopsis

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.

Review

It’s a strange feeling coming back to your favourite book series ever and trying to find the proper words to review it – without going down the I love this so much it hurts existing fanboying mentality I have over the Red Rising Saga. Disclaimer: I first read Red Rising (or at least, first started it) about three years ago and in terms of the overall series, I fell in love immediately. Though, I’ve never reread it. That paired with the fact I’ve only now just come to love audiobooks, I thought it would be time to come back to this series. That and I’ve never reviewed them before. So, rather than coming to this fresh like most of my other reviews, I’m coming back to this series with a bundle of existing feelings but I’ll try not to let that get in the way of this review series. It’ll be a combination of what I thought initially and what I feel now melded into one. Check out my other reviews in this series: Red Rising and Golden Son.

Morning Star is the gripping, heart-rending conclusion to the original Red Rising trilogy that carves a piece of your heart out in the beginning and manages to slowly install a hope we’ve not seen before. A hope that your favourite characters might – at the very least – die a good death. Though, this book gives me mixed feelings and I can’t decide whether it’s a slow torment or a meandering blessing in disguise. It certainly has more grand space-battles, a lot more politics, more politics, and a small – if not a little too small – helping of duels.

Well, how on earth do I summarise any bit of this plot without spoiling it for other who may come across this review and use that as a starting point to finally get into the series? I don’t. Let’s just say that Morning Star gives birth to the rising in full. This is a book of change, of hope, of chance, of voice and platform. It is the time for red to rise. Darrow, and more friends that he thought he’d have left, have an opportunity to make a lasting change; they only need convince the Moon Lords that theirs is the better choice, and to outsmart both the Jackal and the champion strategist that is Roque. Having read Ender’s Game since my first read through of Morning Star, I can definitely see where Pierce wears his influences with this one and it was quite cool to be able to pick those scenes out of it. There’s some very introspective, Ender moments from him in this one. While the plot is slower, because our characters start out in some what disarray, it’s a steady climb to the peak.

This book features a lot less of the duelling and close quarters, ground warfare that I’d come to love from these roman-esque warriors; as a result of that, it leaves a lot more time for talking, politicking and arguing. But that’s okay. While it was the end of the original trilogy, I know now that it was also setting up for the continuation of the same (nearly) story in the next books and you can tell that this is balanced on a knife edge with Morning Star. It’s about keeping enough open, setting up enough conflict for the next books while also ensuring that there was enough closed in this one to satisfy the reader. And I do think Pierce does a fantastic job at that, but you can definitely see the groundwork. The balance is nicely done but it does suffer from that when compared to Golden Son – having been a sequel that doesn’t suffer from book two syndrome and is in fact a sequel on steroids. When I read this book the first time, that understanding wasn’t there as I hadn’t read Iron Gold so it did feel a little underwhelming in places.

Camaraderie and found family are ever the main feature of this book for me. The emotional rollercoaster that Pierce so heavily relies on, or thrives on putting the reader through, couldn’t be done without expert character building – it’s one of those things where you can only hurt someone if they care. There’s a lot of bad stuff an author can do to you if you carve out such deep relationships as Pierce does. And boy it hurts. At this point, it can get little overwhelming being scared for your favourite characters all the time. But no one is immortal. And this is why – in my opinion – this series is so great. It takes a character without family and finds them for him. It’s the little scenes, the ones where characters reunite, or share a drink watching reruns of the institute, or have a cry with that are the most magical. And for me to cherish tiny scenes like that over the big space battles, that definitely says something about the character building.

This series is still my favourite and the second read through has only proven that to me. It holds the same magic and more. Safe to say, I teared up in a lot of the same place, but this time it seemed to hurt A LOT more (maybe it was Tim Gerard Reynolds excellent narration?) and that took me by surprise in a great way. I just love all the characters. Love them. Overall, it served as a fantastic end to the original trilogy and also a brilliant foundation into the next. If you’ve made it this far, I know there’ll be no need for me to convince you to carry out because it’ll nag at you. What happens next? Well … prepare yourself.

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