Published by Del Rey on Jan 28, 2014
Genres: Dystopia, YA
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.
This is a gritty, dark story. There are no punches pulled in this novel. It makes The Hunger Games look like a sweet, bedtime story. I’ve read quite a few YA dystopian novels, and this one blows them all away. It’s more like Game of Thrones than any young adult novel I’ve read. Red Rising is definitely one of those books that pulled me in and took over my head for a few days.
The book is about Darrow, who gets recruited to join a rebellion after the death of a loved one. He’s the strong and silent type, but his character is anything but one dimensional. The way the author writes him is so intriguing and so emotional, it’s easy to connect with his character and really feel what he’s feeling. And when Darrow does speak, his words really pack a lot of punch, because they are so well chosen. The author’s writing style is terse, but at the same time manages to be extremely vivid and impactful. He doesn’t use a lot of the words, but all of the words he uses are the right words.
Darrow goes through the ringer in this book. He has to make a lot of hard choices, and he’s not strictly morally good. The book lets him do bad things like kill likable characters. I love that Darrow is morally ambiguous. It makes him so much more compelling as a character, because it’s easy to disagree with his methods and his choices, but at the same time he has so many redeeming qualities. He also makes a lot of wrong choices and suffers because of them, and his failures and decisions haunt him. He’s so well rounded, he’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read.
Outside of Darrow, all of the secondary characters are really charming as well. Each character adds so much depth to the world the author is creating in Red Rising, because even though they are all essentially members of the same cast, they all have varied backgrounds. Cassis is arrogant, quick to fight, but can be charming. Roque is wise and calm. Pax is loyal and boisterous. Mustang is kind and tough. Servo is just plain awesome. I really loved Servo. Each character brings something new to the table, and everybody has their own voice. It makes the cast feel very realistic and well developed. These are not throw-away characters that are just there to prop up Darrow. It’s easy to care about them, and that makes the story a lot more powerful.
The other thing that’s so great about this is the villains. They’re so good. They’re competent, so you can see how they came to power. And they’ve got depth to them, so they’re not just the shadowy bad guy who’s bad because reasons. In fact, some of them you can even sympathize with.
Plot wise, it does seem like there are three sections of the book; one in Darrow’s home town, one when he leaves, and another when he goes to the Gold’s school. It was a little jarring but I didn’t hate it. The tension in the story is always high, so it never felt boring to me.
Speaking of not boring, this author really knows how to write action and battle scenes. Fights can get muddled sometimes in books, and I find it hard sometimes to really imagine how fight scenes look. In this book, I mentioned Hunger Games earlier, and there are elements in this book that are sort of like other YA dystopian novels, but overall everything in this felt very original. There are a bunch of twists that I didn’t see coming, and by the end I was dying for more. And lucky me, the sequel, Golden Son, came out January 6, and I’m already reading it!