Review: Red Rising (Red Rising Saga #1) by Pierce Brown

Rating: 8/10


“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.


Red Rising was one of those books that had me hooked from the start. From the very first sentence, I was a Red, a dexterous Helldiver tied to a machine as I am tied to my husband. The prose brought me in, Darrow’s voice so clearly resonating in my eardrums as if he were speaking directly to me. I could hear him and see him, tousled red hair and all.

And then it happened. The thing. The catalyst that starts Darrow on a journey from cowardice to fear-inducing rage and left me sobbing in the first third of the book. As I read aloud to my spouse, my voice cracked and tears cascaded down my cheeks. With Darrow’s, my heart was breaking.

There comes a point in every person’s life when they think they cannot go on, when something so catastrophic happens to them that they long to succumb to the desire to give up. But something inside Darrow burns bright–fury. In the beginning, Darrow is meek and reserved, always willing to let injustices go unpunished if it doesn’t directly affect his livelihood. But when he is pushed beyond his limit, a fury he didn’t know he possessed overtakes him and transforms him. While he becomes something else entirely on the outside, he also becomes something else on the inside. I won’t give too much away, but Darrow’s transformation is so much more than physical, and I think this was a necessary choice the author had to make in order for the story to progress the way it did.

For Darrow, survival is no longer about making it out of the tunnels he mines. Pitted against the most elite warriors he has ever met, he must fight and access reserves of strength never before possible. I found this to be fascinating, but also troubling. When Darrow is among the Golds, he must behave and speak like them. But there is a point when he begins to think like them, even subconsciously, outside of necessity. He begins to think of himself as almost a god, as most Golds do, and that seems to stray from what his initial mission is. I wish I could say more, but it would delve too far into the realm of spoilers.

I won’t say that I didn’t love every second of Darrow’s time with the Golds. I just question the choices he made. Still, there are certain things he did that (if you’ve read the series) you’ll know he had to do in order to cement his place among their ranks. My biggest gripe, and the thing that prevents this book from getting a perfect score, is the ending. Ultimately, Darrow had a choice to make. He needed to get in with the most elite of the Golds in order to fulfil his mission with the Sons of Ares, but it felt like such a deviation from the character I had been reading that it upset me. So much so, in fact, that I delayed writing this review until I could collect my thoughts and express my love for the story and disdain for the ending in the same review. Before I ruffle any feathers, though, I fully understand why Darrow made the decision he did. I just wanted him to throat punch You-Know-Who one good time to make me feel better. That felt like something Darrow would do, not lick That Guy’s boot.

I’ve heard time and again that the story only gets better from here and I am eager to get my hands on Golden Son. Pierce Brown is an incredible storyteller, and even if I’m not entirely happy with the way the first book ended, I’m not going to discount the entire series. I am ready to watch Darrow upend the entire caste system and burn the world anew, but I am going to lick my salty wounds and pout for a moment that I didn’t get my way.

Still…I loved it. 10/10…except for the ending.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rebecca says:

    One of my all time favorite series – just wait until Golden Son! WOWZA!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Justin says:

      I have told her the same thing! Golden Son really turns the series up to 11.

      Liked by 1 person

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