Red Rising (2014) Pierce Brown – Book One of the Red Rising Trilogy: Book Review
· Darrow, a Red who is remade into a Gold named "Darrow au Andromedus" to infiltrate and destroy the Society. He is later called "The Reaper" by his classmates, for the sickle-shaped blade he carries as his weapon.
· Eo, Darrow's wife who’s hanging for treason ignites his desire for revenge against the Golds.
· Nero au Augustus, the ArchGovernor of Mars who orders Eo's execution.
· Virginia au Augustus, daughter of the ArchGovernor and leader of House Minerva at the Institute. Initially not knowing her given name, Darrow calls her "Mustang".
· Adrius au Augustus, Virginia's vicious twin brother, leader of House Pluto at the Institute. His nickname is "The Jackal".
· Cassius au Bellona, Darrow's former ally and friend in House Mars who later turns on him.
· Jullian au Bellona, Younger brother of Cassius who is paired with Darrow in “the passage”.
· Roque, Darrow's friend and ally in House Mars, a self-styled poet.
· Sevro, Darrow's friend and ally in House Mars, a low Draft with an antisocial attitude.
· Antonia au Severus, a ruthless Gold in house Mars.
· Titus au Ladros, a violent and tyrannical member of House Mars.
· Pax au Telemanus, a massive warrior aligned with Virginia in House Minerva.
· Tactus au Rath, a duplicitous member of House Diana.
· Fitchner, Proctor of Mars at the Institute, Sevro's father.
· Narol, Darrow's paternal uncle, rescues Darrow after his execution and sends him to the Sons of Ares.
· Dancer, Darrow's mentor in the Sons of Ares who first reveals to him the lies of the Golds.
· Harmony, Partner of Dancer who helps train Darrow during his carving
· Mickey, a Violet carver who remakes Darrow's body and physically transforms him into a Gold.
· Matteo, a Pink who educates Darrow all about the society, its history, politics and arts.
· Octavia au Lune, the Sovereign of the Society.
Pierce Brown creates a solar system of hierarchal repression reminiscent of The Hunger Games. The world that Pierce creates is segregated strictly by classes designated by colors. Yellows are the doctors, blues are the pilots, pinks are the prostitutes and on it goes. The Golds are the tyrannical leaders (of course). The hero of this book (first in the Red Rising Trilogy - Golden Son and Morningstar come next) is Darrow (a Red), a devil diver, who works (like all reds) far underground on Mars mining helium-3 that can be used to terraform Mars and the rest of the solar system. His wife Eo is a frustrated anarchist and when she and Darrow are arrested for a minor offense she sings a forbidden protest song for everyone, including Nero au Augustus (the Gold ArchGovernor of Mars), who orders her death by hanging. Darrow then cuts down her body and buries her, which also happens to lead to a death sentence, and he is also hanged. However, he is saved by his uncle Narel and sent to the rebel group, Son’s of Ares. Why? They plan to perform the ultimate plastic surgery and turn him into a Gold with the hope of his working his way into a position to topple the society.
Dance and Harmony are part of the Son’s of Ares and talk Darrow into going through with the carving to become a Gold. Mickey is a violet who is a carver who is on the sleazy side of plastic surgery in this world. He is also talented. The description of the carving of Darrow is interesting. Virtually every bit of his body needs to be modified to achieve the herculean stature of a Gold. Matteo is a pink who teaches Darrow all of the social skills necessary to be a Gold.
Following a written test, Darrow enters the institute- one of a thousand. He is drafted into house Mars along with 99 others. He meets many of the people that will impact his life moving forward. Julian and Cassius, Titus, Sevro, Rogue, and Antonia. The first night in house Mars they are each beaten by Obsidians and taken to a room with one other student. Finchner (proctor of house Mars) tells them that it is a fight to the death and only one student leaves each room. Darrow is paired with Julian and after much angst, kills him and joins the survivors.
They are then taken to a castle to enter the project that is the institute. That is that each house is battling the others for supremacy. Within each house the students fight to be the leader - Primus. I think Pierce Brown does a very good job with this section. He describes the miseries of having bad water or no fire and the results. Darrow becomes for all intents the leader of house Mars with Cassius as his right hand man until Cassius learns, through the Jackal, that Darrow killed his brother Julian in the Passage. He, seemingly, mortally wounds Darrow in the forest and leaves him to die. Fortunately for Darrow, Mustang, is also a refugee hiding out and nurses him back to health. Together they band the stragglers and misfits into an army and look to defeat the rest of the houses until they meet the Jackal who, because his father is Nero au Augustus, is getting help from all of the proctors. Darrow takes on the proctors and defeats them and then sends Mustang to bring back the Jackal who has just slipped away. Finchner then confides to Darrow that Mustang is Virginia au Augustus the daughter of Nero and twin sister of the Jackal. He needn’t have worried as she faithfully brings the Jackal in and Darrow wins the institute. He then becomes the apprentice to Nero au Augustus which is the set up for the following book of the trilogy - Golden Son.
If you like other such books - Hunger games, divergent series, Ender’s Game - you will probably like this. If you don’t then you probably won’t like Red Rising either. I liked it. The next two books are not quite as good without the focus on the institute. They seem to be rushing for the end that we all know is coming.