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