SPOILERS for the entire Red Rising series (besides Light Bringer) included below, even in the synopsis. Read at your own peril.
Pierce Brown’s New York Times bestselling Red Rising series continues in the thrilling sequel to Dark Age.
“The measure of a man is not the fear he sows in his enemies. It is the hope he gives his friends.”—Virginia au Augustus
The Reaper is a legend, more myth than man: the savior of worlds, the leader of the Rising, the breaker of chains.
But the Reaper is also Darrow, born of the red soil of Mars: a husband, a father, a friend.
The worlds once needed the Reaper. But now they need Darrow. Because after the dark age will come a new age: of light, of victory, of hope.
Blurb Style Review
Light Bringer combines Brown’s trademark character work and action sequences with the grimness of Dark Age, and the hopefulness of the original trilogy, to create a truly unique entry in the Red Rising Saga. I cannot wait for book 7, Red God!
Thank you so much to Del Rey Books and Penguin Random House for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’ll say this from the get go to set expectations. Light Bringer was not my least favorite nor my favorite book of the Red Rising Saga. Out of the 6 current books it sits at #4 behind Golden Son, Dark Age, and Morning Star, but ahead of Red Rising and Iron Gold. To put that into further perspective, I have never ranked a Red Rising book below 9/10. So it is no insult to say that Light Bringer is my 4th favorite of the series. They are all basically amazing. Anyway, on to the actual review.
Light Bringer has its grim moments, but it is not the despair filled, no getting off train ride on the way to hell that Dark Age was. In this entry, it felt like Brown got back to his roots from the original trilogy. For every grim moment there was a hopeful one. For every dark thing that happened there was always a little light. The themes and values of true friendship, loyalty, and love came through in a big way.
However, those of us who have read through Dark Age know that some of the relationships that we’ve come to love so much are in dire straits, potentially broken forever. I was really happy to see that the few relationships that are focused on in Light Bringer are written in such a way that feels true to the characters involved and also to the trauma of what they’ve been through, whatever the outcome. There is also a new friendship formed that I really enjoyed. How the author writes his characters is one of my favorite things about this series and that didn’t change in Lightbringer. Some of the very best moments were intimate, emotional scenes between characters with deeply meaningful relationships. That is where I will stop with that discussion though because I can’t say more without spoilers.
A large part of how I rate a book depends on if the author was able to get an emotional reaction out of me. If a book is able to accomplish that, unless they do something else that is just really not my thing, I will typically really like or love it. That being said, Light Bringer made me cry once and tear up at least once if not more. Not heaving sobs, but tears none the less. Part of that I’m sure is the love I already have for this series and especially the characters, but an even bigger part is that Brown continues to write scenes with such raw emotion. These scenes are so relatable because it makes these giants of war and destruction feel so utterly human. They feel the same things we do. They struggle with the same demons, albeit often on a bigger scale than most of us will experience. Light Bringer made me run the gamut of emotions from rage all the way to joy and back again. I was so happy with that.
Overall, the plot itself was very satisfying. There were some shocking moments, twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and lots of good ol’ Pierce Brown action scenes with the high stakes and blistering pace that I’ve come to love. There were four places that the majority of the plot took place with four very separate, but intertwining threads. Each part of the story was important and sets up the concluding book of the series beautifully while telling its own engaging story.
However, the one criticism I have for Light Bringer is that there was a major plot thread that wove itself throughout Iron Gold and Dark Age that felt like it was almost dropped. It is mentioned briefly here and there both to update us on what the current situation is and to talk about the ramifications it had on the characters that were involved. However, with how big of a reveal it was in Dark Age I expected it to be addressed more in this installment.
Mustang got more POV time! Virginia got the screen time that she deserved in this one and I was so here for it. Her character has always been a compelling part of the series so to see a major piece of this story through her eyes was so satisfying.
One thing that I found in both Iron Gold and Dark Age was that I didn’t love Lyria’s POV. It was more interesting in Dark Age than in Iron Gold, but there was still something missing. Brown found his stride with Lyria’s POV in Light Bringer in large part due to her having a more interesting part of the story to tell. In the previous two books, Lyria’s POV almost always felt kind of like a side quest. However, in Light Bringer Lyria is finally brought to the forefront of one part of the overarching conflict and I loved that.
I can’t say too much about Lysander because spoilers. What I will say is that Brown writes him magnificently and he is one of those characters that elicits a lot of emotion out of me. Whether those emotions are positive or negative you will have to read the book to find out.
Darrow was Darrow, as usual. What more can I say that I haven’t said before? Darrow is incredibly compelling in both character and plot. He is the character through which you see about one third of this story and whose presence keeps the wheels of this story turning. He is not everything, but he is a significant portion of why this story works so well. His growth as a character throughout this series, and especially throughout this second part of the Saga, is nothing short of masterful. Sevro has always been my favorite character from this series with Darrow right behind him. However, depending on how Red God goes Darrow may overtake Sevro and several others in my top characters of all time. We’ll just have to wait and see.