Review: Dark Age (Red Rising #5) by Pierce Brown


Rating: 10/10

Synopsis

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?

Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.

Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

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 – while also remaining spoiler free. With this reviews ends my review series for Red Rising, until we get the final instalment. But first, there’s a lot to think about, a lot of anguish and wonder to work out that I simply do not think I’ll be able to distil into words.

Dark Age is the successor to Iron Gold, the advent of war in all its horror; there’s no glory to be had here, only loss, suffering and war. And as a wise sword master once said, death begets death.

When the Society and the Republic meet, and Darrow falls into the clutches of the Dictator, Atalantia au Grimmus, there’s no respite to be had. Dark Age is the culmination of the bitter victory that revolution brings, of the difficulty to truly burn the ideals that shackled the people in the past, and the way those linger in both the shadows and the minds of the repressed, those who would see a piece of the cake for themselves now they are free of tyrants (for now.) Of the struggles of maintaining control after revolution, and the very misery and suffering that war really entails. It is not a light-hearted read, nor is there much other than despair. But it is fantastic, incredible writing that makes your lavish those moments, that forces your to read on if anything for that glimmer of hope, that simple wish that you see your favourite characters survive. It is a tale you shouldn’t miss.

In short, Darrow rushed to Mercury from Venus in a desperate bid to stop Atalantia and the remaining might of the Society’s fleet, the Sword Armada that now stands at a strength beyond what it was when the Ash Lord wielded it; only, he could only join the free legions in their fight and is stuck in dire need of anti-rad meds, food, and general supplies. Stuck without escape. Stuck with the impending doom of the full-might of the Society about to bear down on him. Stuck without backup coming. Meanwhile, Lyria is captured for her part in the syndicate’s plot, and crosses path to Volga, a freelancer and friend to Ephraim, who has been kidnapped – along with the Pax and Electra – by Sethi the Quiet and her Alltribe. I’ve really had to summarise here, as the book comes in at a whopping 800+ pages; it is a real tome. Despite all the despair it might have, the plot is some of the most nail-biting, down-right intriguing and page-turning I’ve ever read. Even with this being the second read, I couldn’t put it down. I literally consumed it, had to read more, had to go back, and reread and could do nothing but obsess over it. The plot is long, but not slow. It is the culmination of technological progress, new law and advancement of a species that’s still fighting its oppressor.

Following on from that, I love the progress the story has made since Red Rising. Pierce really leaves no stone unturned. It’s full of new technology: in the form of strange parasitic tech, hunter-killer robots and just generally a whole load of robotics – which cleverly opposes the Gold rule, and law, where such technology had been outlawed in the first three books. It isn’t much, but it really shows that Pierce pays attention to what’s been written, that he thinks about the ramifications of important plot points and gets down to the real specifics of progress. Of how the Republic might move on, the laws they’d pass in the meantime. This was in Iron Gold, but you only quite see the application of new technology when war hits. And oh boy, did it hit.

Again, I have to comment on Darrow’s character arc; with the fact that in Iron Gold he was the tired, old and fed-up warlord of a Republic that no longer needed one, and had branded him a warmonger, there’s a shift in the dynamic. Because everything Darrow feared came true. So there was call for a warlord. Call for a god of war, a call for Darrow, the Reaper of Mars. Let me tell you one thing: he answers that call. There’s no longer the sense of Darrow at war as a head of the Rising. This is Darrow at war protecting the peoples he’s freed, protecting the world he’s made, fending off the chains he’s broken. Where the Rising was personal to him as a red, there’s a sense here that this war is the end all and be all of everything the character’s invested in. A real do or die that bleeds through the page, that you can’t help but feel in every word. For the first time we also get to see the world from the POV of Virginia and that too was something special. She’s certainly one for a well-crafted speech.

Pierce makes war matter in this book. Not in the way that it is necessary, but in a way where you’re brought into the horror of it all, you’re shown what effect it can really have, even the far-reaching kind. Where eyes are turned and evil can grow its roots, spread throughout a society. And the consequences of that are felt in the Alltribe, on Mars with the Red Hand, on Lune with the vox populi. It isn’t only felt on the battlefield, it ripples throughout an entire solar system.

I genuinely come away from this book every time feeling drained, wondering how writing is possible of evoking these emotions within me; how I can read on, and why can’t it end there; of what happens next and when it will be out. It really plays with my emotions, makes me think of the philosophical quandaries that are there for you to pick at if you wish. To me, this book is a masterpiece.

Overall, I couldn’t recommend this book enough. Honestly, I’m surprised I got this far with being able to put anything I feel about it in words. For the most part I know I’ve just rambled. But all I can say is that when I give this book 10/10, it is only because I couldn’t possibly give it anything else on the scale. It tops that scale; it goes far beyond and above. But I’m forced to choose a number from ten, so it must be ten.

Please check out my other reviews in this series: Red RisingGolden Son, Morning Star, and Iron Gold.

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