And I wonder […] if the planet does not mind that we wound her surface or pillage her bounty, because she knows we silly warm things are not even a bAnd I wonder […] if the planet does not mind that we wound her surface or pillage her bounty, because she knows we silly warm things are not even a breath in her cosmic life. We have grown and spread, and will rage and die. And when all that remains of us is our steel monuments and plastic idols, her winds will whisper, her sands will shift, and she will spin on and on, forgetting about the bold, hairless apes who thought they deserved immortality.
I very rarely write reviews of a third book in a series/trilogy. I think it’s a combination of laziness and also a surety that my star rating is the only thing people are looking for anyway at this point. I mean, if you’ve made it to Book 3 there’s not much more I can say to convince you of anything. I also have to toe the line of how much I spoil. Has the reader of this review already read Book 2? Can I safely refer to the spoilers in that book at least?
I know I go on and on about Darrow and what a putz he is, but this series has been a really unique reading experience for me in that regard. Pierce Brown is an undeniably talented writer. He has created a fascinating world colored with some amazing characters I grew to care deeply about (Ragnar, Sevro, Victra, etc.). Not only are the action scenes written really well, but there’s so much meaty emotional stuff here, too. (I mean my heart still hurts thinking about that whipping scene in Book 1). So many great character dynamics and arcs.
Brown knows his stuff. So, why doesn’t Darrow work? Why is he such a Gary-Stu? IS he a Gary-Stu? Wouldn’t Sevro have been a more interesting character to follow and rally behind as a reader? And what was it that Brown did to make me finally care about Darrow as a character (because, reader, I do). I see a lot of people on Goodreads who don’t pursue the rest of the series because they don’t like Darrow and can’t get past it. I guess now that I’m on the RR fangirl train and gave this book 5 stars that I have to address it.
When you have this larger than life character, this One Great Hope, this almost spiritual figurehead, I think as a reader you need to be one step removed from them for it to work. There needs to be a mystery there for me to buy it. In the Red Rising trilogy you get to have these really human moments with Darrow inside his head with his doubts and fears and quiet thoughts and then on the next page he does a 180 and is giving a moving speech to “his people” talking to them like he’s a god. This line in Golden Son killed me:
“Fight for each other,” I say over the com to those at my side in the riverbed. “Or me.” I would have snorted into my com if I’d been by his side in that riverbed.
But I have come to the conclusion that at least 70% of Darrow hate would be erased simply if he weren’t written in first person. Take this section for example: I pace my bridge like a caged wolf, his meal just beyond the bars. The kindness of me hidden again behind the Reaper’s savage face. “Virga, are the Howlers in position?” I ask.
It is instantly more palatable in a different narration style: Darrow paces the bridge like a caged wolf, his meal just beyond the bars. The kindness of him hidden again behind the Reaper’s savage face. “Virga, are the Howlers in position?” he asks.
I literally can’t handle Darrow referring to himself in his head as a hungry caged wolf or having a “savage face”. But have an omniscient narrator (or another character) do it and I am genuinely creeped out a bit.
Now having said all that, with Morning Star I felt the warmest I’ve ever felt towards Darrow. To say the novel opens with him at an incredibly low point in his life would be an understatement. Darrow is broken emotionally, physically, mentally… and when you have your perfect god-characters broken, it’s certainly a sight to see.
Tears leak from my eyes, not from the pain, but from the casualness of his cruelty. It makes me feel so small. Why does it take so little for him to hurt me so much?
You can tell that Brown took pains to further prove how human and fallible Darrow is, to humble him as a character as well as elevate the secondary characters as truly heroic ((view spoiler)[ It is Sevro who shows up when all hope seems lost to help save the day. It is Cassius who turns the tide by switching sides. It is Mustang who becomes the next leader of the people. (hide spoiler)]). Yes, Darrow still comes up with the Best Plans Ever and rarely seems to break a sweat, but he only succeeds because of the people he has around him. It’s a team effort, and more so than the other books, you truly feel that. You believe Darrow’s need and love for these other strong characters, so it’s ok to just roll your eyes every once and awhile when he makes a dumb speech. His heart is in the right place and he’s damn good at his job. I’ll give him a break.
Things that were great: 1. Sevro. Bloodydamn Sevro. One moment he’s dropping gems like these: “If there’s two things in this world that can’t be killed, it’s the fungus under my sack and the Reaper of bloodydamn Mars. Haha!” And the next moment I’m ugly crying inside because Darrow refers to Sevro as his “mangy little guardian angel” and it’s just too true. (view spoiler)[ And that whole sequence of Sevro paralleling the whipping scene from Red Rising had me dying. My little Goblin has grown up so much!! (hide spoiler)] 2. Ragnar. RAGNAR. 3. Victra, Cassius, Kavax….just all of the intriguing side characters and their quirks and personalities. 4. World-building is even more fleshed out. Did you always wonder why they didn’t just invent robots to do the Reds job and thought it was a plothole that they didn’t? Well, jokes on you, because the rebels thought the same thing. There’s some really neat deconstructing of the Golds and their society that they have created, including the intentional stagnant nature of it. As a huge nerd, I really dug all of that. 5. This subtle love letter to the fans who hated Darrow in book 1: “Shit, I was a little idiot. You would have hated me. I was comfortable and arrogant and selfish on my knees. I liked being blind to everything because I was in love. And I thought for some reason that living for love was the most valiant thing in all the worlds. Even made Eo into something in my head that she wasn’t. Romanticized her and the life we had—probably because I saw my father die for some cause. And I saw all he left behind, so I tried to cling to the life he abandoned.” Preach, Darrow, preach! 6. Managed to nicely wrap up the series, while still leaving pleeeeenty of room left to explore in a continued or connected series. 7. Pierce, let's be friends. I like you a lot.
I always wondered how I survived the Institute. It damn well wasn’t because of my father. He was a gentle man. Mother is the spine in me. The iron. And I clutch her hand as if such a simple gesture could say all that. --- Absent love, fear will do nicely in a pinch. --- Her head is caved in. I stare at it. Wondering why I’m not horrified at the scene. Some part of me has died. But when did it die? Why did I not notice? --- I thought being a man was having control. Being the master and commander of your own destiny. How could any boy know that freedom is lost the moment you become a man. Things start to count. To press in. Constricting slowly, inevitably, creating a cage of inconveniences and duties and deadlines and failed plans and lost friends. --- I’m a bloodydamn Helldiver with an army of giant, mildly psychotic women behind me and a fleet of state-of-the-art warships crewed by pissed-off pirates, engineers, techs, and former slaves. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I hate how my body shivers at the idea of glory. There’s something deep in man that hungers for this. But I think it weakness, not strength, to abandoI hate how my body shivers at the idea of glory. There’s something deep in man that hungers for this. But I think it weakness, not strength, to abandon decency for that strange darker spirit.
So two years have passed, and we open upon Always Perfect Darrow failing at something and causing the metaphorical space shit to hit the fan. WHAT A DELIGHT. I don’t consider that a spoiler, I consider it a neon sign incentive beckoning you to the glory that is Golden Son, because that’s only the beginning. Y’all, Darrow is a great leader, he’s a great orator, I’m not trying to hide his bushel under a basket, but as a reader when I don’t worry about my protagonist’s success or well-being, then we have a problem. I worry about Frodo Baggins, because he is a smol hobbit who is brave and pure but inexperienced and in a dark world. I am concerned for Harry Potter, because he is a slacker who needs to copy Hermione’s homework, but tomorrow he might need to fight the most powerful wizard of all time. I root for Katniss Everdeen, because she never believed her own Mockingjay hype and all she ever wanted was to be an introvert in the woods with her family.
So when you have Darrow—he of the perfect planning and hidden cards up his sleeve and never breaking a sweat—it’s hard to become invested, it’s hard to care. You know all of his plans will eventually work, you know everyone will eventually realize how brilliant he is. In fact, you will even hear Darrow describe himself TO HIMSELF as being this revolutionary, cosmic, world-shaking titan of change. My eyes will detach if they roll back any further.
I didn’t know if I could survive another whole novel of that (as much as I enjoyed most everything else about Red Rising). So to say I was pleasantly surprised when Darrow epically failed at something one chapter into Golden Son would be an understatement. Reader, I felt hope! Darrow just may be human after all! I may need to start worrying! I might become…invested!!!
But ok, does Brown eventually resort to his old tricks and take advantage of the two year time jump to cheat a little by having Darrow hold back key information AGAIN from the reader in order to shock us later (a pet peeve of mine)? Yes, but I’ll admit it’s a great scene, a BANANAS scene. And from that scene on the book takes a sharp turn to Crazy Town (like the Passage scene in book 1), and things only get better.
Not only does Darrow continue to improve as a character, but certain themes and plotlines from Red Rising that I wasn’t that fond of (vague to avoid spoilers) are revisited/expanded, and provide the reader with more meat to chew on. I appreciated that. “Remember that character who did this awful thing that at the time we kind of brushed under the rug? They’re actually still awful and it’s a pretty big deal! Realism!” Pretty much all of my non-Darrow criticisms from Red Rising are addressed (which is no small feat as I am the queen of Cynicism).
Praises: we have more Sevro! We have sweet friendship! We have sassy villains! There's duels, double crossing, betrayals. There's people firing themselves into space onto other ships or even shooting themselves onto planets. Cranky old war vets! Family and friend reunions! Sadistic torture! Complicated love lives! SUPER CUTE LOYALTY! Death & despair & sadness :(
And if none of the above convinces you to keep at it with this series, just know that you’ll miss out on reading about my main man….Ragnar. The coolest, scariest, sweetest, Grootiest Viking prince my heart will ever know.
Oh, and the cliff hanger to this book is insane.
Wrapping up this review by saying thank you to Pierce Brown. Brown, you listened. You heard the criticisms of Red Rising and you learned, you grew, and you wrote a stellar sequel. I love your writing, I love your brain…onward & upward, my friend. Onward & upward.
How cruel a life, that the sight of my dead wife means hope.
“I will die. You will die. We will all die and the universe will carry on without care. All that we have is that shout into the wind - how we live. How we go. And how we stand before we fall.”
That's what Society does--spread the blame so there is no villain, so it's futile to even begin to find a villain, to find justice. It's just machinery. Processes.
And what is the bloodydamn point of surviving in this cold world if I run from the only warmth it has to offer?
Modern war is fearing the air, the shadows, fearing the silence. Death will come and I won't even see it....more
3.5 stars. I feel as I normally do when I give a lower rating than I expected to a sequel (of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed) even though I’m still3.5 stars. I feel as I normally do when I give a lower rating than I expected to a sequel (of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed) even though I’m still looking forward to the next book. That feeling is guilt. Like, somehow I personally failed this book as a reader. What’s my problem?? Let me defend my case!!
I never wrote a review for The Passage, so let me do a super mini one now. It was slow going at first. Very literary. Which isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re reading a doorstopper of a book, you kind of want the pace to pick up (especially if it’s a supposed post-apocalyptic vampire horror adventure novel). But there was a certain charm that developed in the first third of the novel. It does its job of setting up just how the “end of the world” came to be and introduces some important characters and storylines that, believe it or not, come in to play after the 100 year time jump takes place for the remainder of the novel. Everything ends up coming together beautifully and you appreciate the whole journey it took to get there. Plot-wise, after the 100 year time jump I was in heaven. The pace ramps up, the actions does too, and you follow this colourful cast of characters on a very entertaining and harrowing quest. The world-building is delicious, the characters memorable. I was delighted when I neared the end and realized it was actually being set up for a sequel (although, IMO, it could still be read as a great stand-alone). So imagine my surprise when I finally got my hands on the sequel and…it just didn’t hit all the same high notes. In fact, the few things I didn’t care much for in the first novel are almost exaggerated in the sequel.
The novel begins and we’re back 100 years previous to before the vampire virus outbreak following a few new sets of characters. This immediately puts the breaks on your anticipated-sequel-momentum as a returning reader. In the grand scheme of things it feels redundant, but I’ll admit on a smaller scale I can appreciate it for Cronin’s skills as a writer. Each window into a character feels like a short story piece and Cronin does a fine job of making them interesting and empathetic. But I kept wanting the “real” story to start. I literally flipped ahead in the pages to see when Peter & Alicia & Amy and the old gang were going to show up. Comforted that they would indeed, I slogged on through the first section.
Some Annoyances (really One Glaring Annoyance that I will spoiler cut)
(view spoiler)[ In The Passage it gave me pause when Sarah and Hollis ended up together. He is stated as being quite a bit older than her, so I was a little skeeved knowing a grown man wrote these characters, but I set that feeling aside, because I can’t be too big of a hypocrite since I like older guys myself….but it still stuck out to me. Not to mention the whole slightly weird vibe I got between Adult Peter (19? 20? Idk) and 100+ year old Amy who happens to look like a 12 year old. I blamed that one on myself. Like, of COURSE it’s not sexual/romantic, they just have a transcendent bond, get your head out of the gutter, Jessica!!! Peter loves Alicia (my fave). And the ending pretty much confirms all of this.
Then here comes The Twelve and right out of the gate you get this dude named Kittridge who is a grizzled 35yr old military guy who meets an 18yr old named April right after the virus outbreak and….they have an intimate conversation alone together while on watch duty and multiple times in his head Kittridge waxes poetic on how ~mature~ April is for her age, how ~beyond her years she is~, how ~knowing and intelligent and wise and what an old soul~. So, of course you know they’re going to have sex later and it’s beautiful and pure and destiny and the ONLY point of that entire plotline is that April is the ancestor to my favorite character 100 years later, Alicia. So, already I got a bad taste in my mouth. Like, was this really necessary, Cronin?
Then I started getting these weird vibes as I continued reading that…wait a minute…is Peter…is he…..is he in love with AMY? Does she love him? Is this, like, a thing? Doesn’t she LOOK 13? Isn’t Peter 25+ right now?? What happened to his love for Alicia and their tragic will they/won’t they? I knew immediately that something mystical was going to happen to age Amy up. I didn’t know what, but I was sure Cronin was going to pull some BS to make it happen. AND I WAS TECHNICALLY RIGHT. Through some extremely vague and confusing transformation process Amy magically turns into a WOMAN, and everyone is in awe and Peter has heart eyes and Alicia basically tells Amy that she can have Peter. GAG ME. Other things happen that give me hope that all of it wasn’t a total loss, which I’ll choose not to spoil, but still. (Btw, I could totally deal with Amy loving Peter because in her own mind she is much older and it isn’t her fault she looks like a child. I still think it’s weird, because at her age I’d think she has evolved beyond romantic/sexual love to some degree, but whatever. The reverse though, Peter loving Amy, is inexcusably gross.)
Oh, and I am not even going to TALK about Alicia’s horrible, offensive rape plotline. Can’t be a strong female character unless you’re horrifically raped I guess. (hide spoiler)]
These problematic plotlines are just glaring reminders to me that I am reading a novel written by a man. A man who clearly has issues with women being WOMEN and not girls. So yeah, that kinda killed my buzz a bit.
The good? Listen, I LOVE LOVE LOVE when Cronin writes about and describes these post-apocalyptic colonies. I loved them in The Passage and I love them here. Kerrville, the oil refinery, that psycho Holocaust-esque work camp. I eat it all up. I think (view spoiler)[Sarah (hide spoiler)] (who has never been in my top list of characters) and the sections at the work camp and the rebellion were the strongest & most engaging of the entire book. I couldn’t wait to return to them.
Stick to your strengths, Cronin! Quit being so artsy-fartsy and lofty and ~literary~ with this mystical prophetic mumbo jumbo. Quit focusing on boring pre-apocalypse stuff. Give us The Gang, give us colony life, give us survival, give us action and horror and rebellion. It’s what you’re great at, whether you like it or not. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book made the 13-year-old Jessica in my heart very happy. That is both damning and amazing, I think. Like a delicious cupcake you know is going sThis book made the 13-year-old Jessica in my heart very happy. That is both damning and amazing, I think. Like a delicious cupcake you know is going straight to your thighs.
There's nothing offensive about this book (unless beige people deeply offend you--author, please add more color in the sequel), but it's not going to win any awards either. Clearly heavily influenced by Firefly (and also, like, all the Ginny & Draco fanfic I read in middle school). It was quippy and funny and featured terraformed planets and pulse rifles and cobbled together spaceships.
Not original but not boring either. It's definitely a quick read (I read it in two sittings). If my description above makes you frown, then you will not like this book. But if you love those things (or used to love them), then you will be charmed by this little story possibly against your will....more
That's more like a 3.5 stars. This book wasn't bad, but it definitely suffers from Second Book in a Trilogy syndrome. Higher hopes for the next book! (That's more like a 3.5 stars. This book wasn't bad, but it definitely suffers from Second Book in a Trilogy syndrome. Higher hopes for the next book! (Longer review to come)...more
The much (much) better written, but notably less exciting version of Ready Player One. Futuristic, "immersive virtual reality", bleak reality, smart yThe much (much) better written, but notably less exciting version of Ready Player One. Futuristic, "immersive virtual reality", bleak reality, smart young know-it-all male protagonist, save the world, etc. But if Ready Player One is the book your friend writes in their freshman Writing course, then Idlewild is the book they write during Grad school.
Really great story, but it's a quick read that takes a long time to finish. And DANG was this book a downer the further along you got. By the last page I was, like, officially glum. Beautiful writing, interesting characters, a great melting pot of ideas and questions and Who Am I and What Are We Here For and Is Any Of It Worth It. Ready Player One is all about 80s references, and Idlewild is all about philosophical/science/history ones.
I would NOT be running for the sequel to this, if I hadn't already spoiled myself a bit by reading the synopses of the last two books in the trilogy. First book ends on a very hopeless note, in my opinion, but the sequels sound right up my alley and potentially better than the first. Greatly look forward to reading them!
Spoilers/minor complaints: (view spoiler)[ There were things that would have been major complaints from me if this had been a sillier/more YA/dumber book, but given how they were written/treated in this book, it didn't bother me too much, and it was mainly all near the end. But for example, Hal just glosses over how the other kids arrived at Idlewild. Did they fly?? Sail? Did it take months? How did they all find food & survive during that time? It was also a bit of a dick move for Hal to claim "North America" when 2 of the Pods are located there & I assume a lot of the previous research/materials on Black Ep are located there. If he doesn't want to try and find a cure, then he should hang out in a country with no Pods?? These other kids are expected to just peace out to other whole continents, split up, and do research starting from scratch?? I mean, I know they're all geniuses but this was a bit of a stretch. I may be completely off on these assumptions, but Sagan literally spent like 2 sentences wrapping this all up, and it left me a little confused.
Also, it killed me when Hal went and told each kid individually "everything you know to be reality is a lie, the entire world is dead, etc." and then just glossed over their reactions. Like, wtf? this is kind of a big deal. Perfect opportunity for some great writing, especially since SEVERAL of those characters don't live to the end of the book. Wasted potential. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Bracken's best writing that I've read so far. Gabe was such a refreshing, complex voice. I would almost say this is OK to read as a stOuch. My heart.
Bracken's best writing that I've read so far. Gabe was such a refreshing, complex voice. I would almost say this is OK to read as a standalone. It's that good. Excellent job with world-building, even though it is a novella that technically takes place within a trilogy. As a reader you are still naturally eased into the world and the life of this main character. You grow with him. As his perspective changes and his view widens, so does the reader's. And I have such a soft spot for jerk main characters who just need a hug and someone to show them a little kindness.
4.5 stars, because I didn't cry? and I felt I should have? But dang was this good....more