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Red Rising – A Book Review


It has been a very, very long time since I have sat down with a book in the middle of the morning because I needed – absolutely needed to finish it RIGHT NOW.  But that’s what I did with this book.  I left my kitchen a mess and abandoned all other responsibilities because I was thisclose to finishing Red Rising and I needed to know all the things about this book!

I was sent a copy of Red Rising by Random House Canada and was immediate intrigued when one of the endorsement quotes on the jacket cover read ‘Ender, Katniss and now Darrow’. Well, if you follow my book reviews you know that Ender’s Game is one of my absolute favourite books of all time, and we all know how I feel about The Hunger Games (at least the first book, anyway).  Needless to say I was excited to pick up this book, but also a bit hesitant out of fear of being let down, visions of the Divergent trilogy in my head.  Well, the good news is I was not disappointed.

Red Rising is the debut novel by Pierce Brown and immediately I want to draw a similarity between him and ‘Divergent’ author Veronica Roth mostly because both are young and both have thrown down epically amazing first books.  I hope this is where the similarities end however because I was increasingly disappointed with both Insurgent and finally Allegiant (let’s face it, I fucking hated Allegiant) and Red Rising has the makings of one mind blowing trilogy.  Let’s hope Brown can maintain the awesomeness that was Red Rising for two more books, please.

Red Rising reminds me a little of Ender’s Game meets Divergent meets The Hunger Games.  You have Darrow, similar to Ender, who is the boy chosen to defeat the all powerful enemy.  Like Divergent’s factioned society, the world in Red Rising is divided into colours, with Gold being for the higher borns and Red being the lessers, with many colours in between and each colour having a purpose in society. Similar to The Hunger Games there is a secret group of people who are plotting to create their own leader that will eventually rebel against the status quo and bring their own brand of justice down on the ruling society.  And that secret group has pegged Darrow as the person who will be the one to lead the rebellion.

The thing I loved best about this book is the world that Brown has created.  I don’t know about you, but often when I’m reading  a book I can’t help but be amazed that there is actually someone out there who can think all of this up, and that makes me enjoy reading the book even more.

Set in a futuristic society that exists on Mars and surrounding planets, Red Rising tells the story of Darrow, a 16 year old Helldiver who is a member of the Red society – the lowest colour on the totem pole.  After witnessing an event (no spoilers, I promise) that literally made my heart ache along with Darrow’s, the young Red is inspired to seek justice and vengeance.

Darrow is recruited by a secret group of people who, like Darrow, seek equality and justice against the oppressive government that Darrow learns has basically lied to the entire Red population and is keeping them as slaves without their knowledge.  All hopes are set on Darrow to infiltrate the elusive Gold society and one day be able to exact his vengeance from within.  Darrow undergoes an extreme physical transformation to fit in and is eventually accepted into Gold’s University system.

The thing is, this isn’t a University unlike any other.  Darrow and the rest of his fellow students are throw into a ‘game’ that will be the ultimate test of survival.  As it said on the Goodreads description, this is basically the ultimate game of Capture the Flag, only the stakes are much, much higher.  The Gold’s are a ruthless people and Darrow quickly learns that if he wants to succeed and ultimately win at a game where all the stakes are levelled against him he will have to control his rage and not only be physically strong but mentally strong too.

Red Rising not only creates a character that you will absolutely love and cheer for in Darrow, but it also creates and incredible cast of supporting characters.  I’m not going to lie, there is a lot going on in this book.  There were times when I would have to flip back a few pages to figure out who Darrow was talking to because there were so many characters introduced and so many different scenarios at play but as I continued to read I became more and more familiar with them all.  Brown paints such a vivid picture of his world that it’s hard not to get lost in it. This was a book I would pick up as I was getting ready to head out the door or before I made dinner just so I could read one  more chapter.

I’m not sure if Red Rising is labelled as YA but if it is I think that might be doing it a disservice.  While the central characters range in age from 16 – 18 years old, the story is very much non-YA.  There is a lot of violence in this book – violence that is justified in the name of vengeance and fair play, but as a reader I took as just part of the book.  The characters are much older than their years and even those that I hated at one point I found to be redeemable at another.

This is a great story of love and loss and loyalty and justice and vengeance and I can’t wait to see what the next book will bring. Anyone who enjoys a great futuristic, dystopian society style read will enjoy this book.   I highly recommend Red Rising.


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