Book Review

Dystopian series has compelling world

Do you like Game of Thrones? Ancient Roman history? Dystopian fiction? How about The Hunger Games?  Well, if any of these things interest you, then I strongly suggest that you give Pierce Brown’s Red Rising saga a try.

The books manage to build a compelling world and make you feel invested in the characters, all while remaining action-packed. Now would be a good time to start reading, as Brown has released his latest continuation to the series with his newest book, Iron Gold, which has more than delivered on the series’ promise of being fast-paced, surprising, and intelligent.

The four-book series features a world where humanity has colonized much of the solar system and developed technologies bordering on fantasy. While the books may be set in the future, they follow an archaic caste system delineated by color, enforced through genetic, technological, and political manipulation. At the top of the society, the “Golds” hold the responsibility of controlling everything, while at the bottom, the “Reds” must toil so that the Golds may prosper.

The story follows a Red named Darrow and his burning desire to exact retribution against those that enslaved him and stole away the love of his life.

The worldbuilding in this book is outstanding, featuring fantastical settings, captivating dialogue and politics, all while drawing from ancient Roman history. The series utilizes our already vivid imagination of the different planets in our solar system, from the red sands of Mars, to the barren craters of the Moon, allowing the reader to easily picture these stunning landscapes. In addition to the settings, the political struggles make sense while not becoming boring or overwhelming, as many fantasy series often do. What really drew me in more than anything else was the parallels to the rise of the Roman Republic and the references to Roman mythology. Anyone captivated by the history of Rome will appreciate these undeniable similarities of conquest, honor, and betrayal.

I also liked how the main character Darrow—throughout the saga—must play with fire and sometimes sacrifice his ideals to achieve his goals. It’s his potential to do good or commit great evils, and his struggle to decide that makes his character so compelling. He is pitted against characters who are true villains where he can be the hero, and sometimes he must play the villain by going against people who are just trying to survive in their dog-eat-dog world.

Brown’s writing made me fall in love with many of the characters who fight alongside Darrow. Characters like Sevro, Pax, and Mustang are so genuine that you start to feel deeply invested in them. What makes this worse is that Brown does not hesitate to kill them off in emotional and cinematic ways. I found myself having to take a break from reading multiple times as my emotions got the better of me.

If you’re a sucker for action, you won’t be disappointed. The series is packed with scenes varying from beautifully violent sword duels to visceral conflicts of war. The series also plays with the darker parts of humanity; even in the future, where humans have so much going for them, people still commit unthinkable acts of violence.

All of these things together makes the series a truly unique and compelling literary feat. If you’re looking for a page-turner which will make you run the emotional gamut, give Red Rising a try!