Petrik's Reviews > Dark Age

Dark Age by Pierce Brown
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3.5/5 stars

Gory (literally) damn insane, violent, bleak, and ruthless. Helldivers, prepare your soul to be hell-drilled by Dark Age’s brutality.


“During war, the laws are silent.”—Quintus Tullius Cicero


Two things first. If it has been a long time since you’ve read Iron Gold or Red Rising Saga, I strongly recommend you to reread the entire series before you read Dark Age. I didn’t do this and I truly believe that my reading experience of this book suffered from it. Secondly, throughout the years since Red Rising publication, many people still insist that this series is for YA audience; by the time you read this book, you’ll probably be traumatized or maybe even loathe this book for its extreme darkness. Seriously, Dark Age is one of the darkest, bleakest, and goriest novel I’ve ever read in my life; the humor and heartwarming aspect of the series that’s usually common to find are close to non-existent in this installment. I will edit this review in the future when I’ve reread the series from the beginning in preparation for the sixth and—maybe—last book of the series, but for now, this is my thoughts and opinions on my first read-through Dark Age.

“With every new endeavor, there’s always the hope that you will find happiness, be less lonely.”


I’ve mentioned this before, out of all the books released in 2019, A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie and Dark Age by Pierce Brown are at the top of my most anticipated release list. I’ve pre-ordered Dark Age since February 2018, that’s one year six months ahead. I’ve never done that for any book, ever. My expectations for these books were extremely high, A Little Hatred exceeded it, but sadly, for the first time ever, I have to say that although I still enjoyed it overall, I didn’t find Dark Age, a book hailed by many of his fans as the best book in saga so far, as enjoyable as I hoped.

“I once thought the greatest sin of war was violence. It isn’t. The greatest sin is it requires good men to become practical.”


Dark Age is the fifth and penultimate installment of the Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown. By this point of the series, it’s safe to say that I can’t talk about the plot at all unless I risked spoiling the story, so I won't be talking about the plot at all. Let me just say there’s no happy moment for the protagonists, and everyone is constantly tortured, tormented, maimed, and killed. How about that? The title of the book pretty much implied the tone of the book already: full-throttle darkness, depression, gore, brutality, bleak, death, violence, violence, and violence; this is by far the bleakest and darkest installment in the series so far. I honestly never expected the series to ever become this dark, and with the escalation of darkness, the pacing of the book felt off to me. There were many moments of supposed intensity that felt desensitized because of everlasting pages of explicit gorefest with no break. Imagine reading attempted rapes, impalements, genital mutilations, drug abuse, maimed, gore, deaths; you name it and it’s all here, for hundreds of pages. After a while, the constant exposure to explicit details of violence ended up becoming boredom. Pierce Brown is at his best when he combined hope, humor, and heartwarming moments with despair and terror into his narrative that’s full of thrilling action sequences. Unfortunately, this brilliance was lost most of the time in this book. Do note that if you check my reading history, you should know that I don’t mind reading violence, gore, and grimdark SFF in heavy doses. They just need to be paced accordingly, and I—with sadness—can’t say that Brown nailed the pacing of his action sequences correctly this time.

“No god listens. There are only men. And what one does, another may undo. That is my only religion. That of the hand and the lever.”


Brown sacrificed many staple moments of the series such as fantastic character developments, clear and concise plot coherence, engaging banters, in exchange for the extreme bleakness. Plus, there’s a severe lack of appearances from my favorite characters of the series; characters for me to root for were truly lacking compared to the previous books. There were many instances where the POV of the new characters from Iron Gold felt like fillers put for the sake of adding pages count. What Brown tried to achieve with them became clearer at the end but even then I still believe that it didn’t require that many pages. Thankfully, there’s a new perspective character to follow here; her chapters were relatively small compared to the other four POV’s but her storyline was easily my favorite in this book. I would like to also add that plot device that revolves around dead characters being resurrected is a personal pet peeve of mine; sometimes they worked, most often they don’t. Let’s just say that the one that Brown pulled off here didn’t work for me.

“How many do not know you. How many will soon forget you. How many praise you today to offer contempt tomorrow. Permanence of fame, power, dominion of the individual, are illusions. All that will be measured, all that will last, is your mastery of yourself.”


I’ve rambled on about the things that didn't work for me here, but rest assured that it’s not all bad. It’s time for me to talk about the incredible parts of the book that I loved. I have always loved Brown’s prose, that didn’t change here. If it weren’t because of his writing style, I probably would’ve DNFed this book somewhere in the middle. Although I have complained about the excessive bleak and violent nature of the book that made the pacing awkward, I won’t deny the fact that there were several devastating scenes that, in my opinion, were written so damn well. These characters suffered, a LOT. The horrible things they have to endure were insane, to say the least. And I can’t help but feel empathetic towards the key characters of the series. It’s also satisfying to see how much of the series has grown in terms of scope. Dark Age is massive in scope; the level of escalation in its scale is something that took me by surprise, and I’m thankful for it.

“You know I believe we all begin equal parts light and dark. I fear you think your strength lies in your darkness. But the measure of a man is not the fear he sows in his enemies. It is the hope he gives his friends.”


One last thing before I close this review, Brown successfully ended Dark Age with a bang. The closing sections of Part 3 and the entirety of Part 4 was absolutely brilliant; tremendously immersive, the twists and turns were written with magnificent clarity. These sections were a return to the greatness that I loved from Brown’s storytelling style. Action scenes full of palpable intensity and fury told in a cinematic fashion that made every brutal scene damn vivid. If I were to rate this book based on these parts, I would give it 5 stars rating in a heartbeat. It was truly brilliant. Plus, it also set up every single plotline for the grand conclusion to come in the next and final book.

“But for all this new civilization’s love affair with technology, they’ve been seduced by their own cleverness and fail to understand the simple truth: lying is not a science, it is an art. And art will always be a human language.”


Dark Age may not be as entertaining and enjoyable as the previous books, but it was certainly bleak, heart-shattering, and epic in scope. Many fans have started claiming that Dark Age is the best book in the series so far; unfortunately, I have to disagree with this notion. However, from the way the story ended here, the next book might truly end up becoming the best in the series for me. I bloodydamn look forward to seeing how it all concludes. Until then, I will endure. See you there, Helldivers.

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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Quotes Petrik Liked

Pierce Brown
“The tragedy of the gifted is the belief they are entitled to greatness, Lysander. As a human, you are entitled only to death.”
Pierce Brown, Dark Age

Pierce Brown
“One must worry about the strength of a principle when it must compromise itself so often to survive.”
Pierce Brown, Dark Age

Pierce Brown
“There will dawn a day when these hostile hours, these days of hatred and violence, seem the faintest of memories, but dark and steep and long is the road up out of hell. So do not tire, do not despair, do not abandon your brethren, and do not forget that through this darkness we and we alone carry the light of freedom. We must defend it with every cell in our bodies. If not now, when? If not us, who?”
Pierce Brown, Dark Age

Pierce Brown
“The key is having a long memory for the sweet, and a short one for the bitter.”
Pierce Brown, Dark Age

Pierce Brown
“During war, the laws are silent.”
Pierce Brown, Dark Age


Reading Progress

November 2, 2016 – Shelved
August 19, 2019 – Started Reading
August 24, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 52 (52 new)


message 1: by Parcival (new)

Parcival Great!


message 2: by Parcival (new)

Parcival I was told yesterday to read this book!


message 3: by Parcival (new)

Parcival To read the first one, I mean


Petrik Parcival wrote: "To read the first one, I mean"

haha thank you, Parcival! Well, it's a fantastic series! The first trilogy in particular were super awesome imo. Give it a go! :)


message 5: by Parcival (new)

Parcival I will!


Petrik Parcival wrote: "I will!"

Awesome! :)


EODO Excited to hear that about the end of part 3 and part 4. I’m not quite there yet and this is already on track to be my favorite Pierce book.


Petrik EODO wrote: "Excited to hear that about the end of part 3 and part 4. I’m not quite there yet and this is already on track to be my favorite Pierce book."

Awesome! That seems to be the general consensus. Arghhh I really I wish I could feel the same way about it! :/

Enjoy, man! :)


message 9: by David (new) - added it

David Zampa Alas, can't read past "...risk spoiling the story." I'm waiting to read Iron Gold when I can read all three of the second trilogy. Can't say I'm surprised about its bleakness, though, given the way Brown seems to plot his books. He's into that Empire Strikes back, classical style of leaving the story in a hopeless strait at the conclusion of the second act. He has to know that having done so with Golden Son already, he has to double down and raise the stakes if he wants to do the same with this one. I predict the sixth book will do what Morning Star did, and lift this book's darkness in the opening chapters and spend the remainder of the book building to an ultimate triumph. It's gonna be a hell of a wait.


Petrik David wrote: "Alas, can't read past "...risk spoiling the story." I'm waiting to read Iron Gold when I can read all three of the second trilogy. Can't say I'm surprised about its bleakness, though, given the way..."

Oh no worries, I didn't talk about the plot or character's names at all if you're wondering! But I still would recommend you to read the book without checking any reviews!

But yeah, it was utterly bleak. Golden Son still had moments of glory, happiness, and hope mingled in it; that's why that book was so brilliant despite the brutality. This one seemed, to me, to be non-stop action scenes and brutality without any break and I felt exhausted from reading it. You're right about one thing though, the sixth book will be a time of retribution, and the wait for it will be painful! :D


message 11: by David (new) - added it

David Zampa Petrik wrote: "David wrote: "Alas, can't read past "...risk spoiling the story." I'm waiting to read Iron Gold when I can read all three of the second trilogy. Can't say I'm surprised about its bleakness, though,..."

That's good to know. I feel like waiting was the right decision for me, then. Like this book will be a lot better as a stepping stone in the series, rather than reading it by itself. I was late to the party reading the original Rising books, and I don't think I've ever been more grateful to be able to read the entire series at once.


Twila As someone who loves darkness and bleakness, this book was a near home run for me! However, I certainly understand your POV and realize that the tone of this book isn't for everyone. I just think that Brown's intention was to really showcase to the readers how hopeless and horrific war can truly be. I think that more banter and lighthearted moments would have ruined the mood he wanted his readers to be in.
Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your review. Great job! :)


message 13: by Travis (new) - added it

Travis Great honest review. I am waiting for the entire series to be released until I dive head first into this series.


Daniel I pretty much thought the same thing, It was ok but non-stop war and chaos. I had to go to the red rising wiki to look up a ton of characters. I'll be doing a complete re-read when the last book comes out.


Petrik David wrote: "Petrik wrote: "David wrote: "Alas, can't read past "...risk spoiling the story." I'm waiting to read Iron Gold when I can read all three of the second trilogy. Can't say I'm surprised about its ble..."

I understand what you mean. Maybe not as late as you, but I binged read the first trilogy after Morning Star comes out too and I'm very happy for it! Maybe I'll feel about this book different when I reread the entire series from the beginning! :)


message 16: by Petrik (last edited Aug 24, 2019 07:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Petrik Twila wrote: "As someone who loves darkness and bleakness, this book was a near home run for me! However, I certainly understand your POV and realize that the tone of this book isn't for everyone. I just think t..."

To me, it's not about only loving the darkness and bleakness, I've read and loved so much of those that I lost count. But it's due to the fact that there's no break in between that I became so bored and indifferent about the things that happening. The numbed feeling could actually be the feeling that Brown's shooting for and if that's true, then he did his job! Technically, imo he did showed how horrific war can be in his scenes magnificently, I won't deny that.

(view spoiler)

Anyway, that's just my thoughts! I'm glad this one worked so well for you! There's always a chance that I felt indifferent about many of the characters because it's been too long since I've read the previous books. I might change my opinion upon a reread! :)


Petrik Travis wrote: "Great honest review. I am waiting for the entire series to be released until I dive head first into this series."

Thanks, Travis! Yeah, I would've said to read the first trilogy and wait for the rest. But now, just wait until the last book comes out and read them all.


Petrik Daniel wrote: "I pretty much thought the same thing, It was ok but non-stop war and chaos. I had to go to the red rising wiki to look up a ton of characters. I'll be doing a complete re-read when the last book co..."

I just saw your review, Daniel! And I agree with everything you said. That's exactly how I feel about this book! Here's hoping that a reread of the entire series will make this book and the next better! :)


David S (David's Book Meanderings) Great review as always Petrik! I've heard that Pierce has said the non-stop pace of all the bad things happening was meant to simulate what war is truly like. There is no time to mourn, no time for pain, no time to move on, there is only the now and what you are going to do or not do to win the fight or lose it. I agree it definitely took a lot of the heart out of the book, but having that goal in mind kind of takes heart out inherently in that war is heartless and senseless at times. I felt numb at the end of this book for a few days and I've never had a book affect me that way. It was surreal and made me appreciate what he was trying to do, even if I would have preferred a little more hope.
Agree with the resurrection thing, that was my only big issue with Dark Age. I hope the person gets un-resurrected soon into book 6.


Petrik David S wrote: "Great review as always Petrik! I've heard that Pierce has said the non-stop pace of all the bad things happening was meant to simulate what war is truly like. There is no time to mourn, no time for..."

Thanks, David! Ahh that makes sense then. I guess this just took me by surprise because it also felt so different from the past four books. That being said, I really want to care more about the characters that suffered; I only care about the key characters such as:

(view spoiler)

As I mention before, I'm in desperate need of a reread through the series. I had to look up so many side characters in this book because I forgot about them. I'm sure that's a huge part of why I felt indifferent about their fates! xD


message 21: by Petrik (last edited Aug 24, 2019 08:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Petrik David S wrote: "I cant agree with you enough about the Sevro part. He was hands down my favorite character in the first trilogy and we barely see him in Dark age and in Iron Gold he's almost reduced to a side char..."

EXACTLY! Btw, might wanna mark your spoilers so that other people who haven't read the book won't be spoiled, David!

If you don't know to do it, use "<"spoiler">" insert your spoilers here "<"/spoiler">"

Remove the """


Petrik Petrik wrote: "David S wrote: "I cant agree with you enough about the Sevro part. He was hands down my favorite character in the first trilogy and we barely see him in Dark age and in Iron Gold he's almost reduce..."

David! Sorry that I had to delete your comment for now! I don't want any readers who haven't read Dark Age get spoiled! But yeah, I've read your comment and you pretty much nailed what I'm trying to say! :)


Brenda Waworga i love this review 👏🏻😂 basically represented all my feels too while reading this book... im still salty with that "ressurrection" twists 😂

Dark Age is definetly NOT my best book of this series as well


David S (David's Book Meanderings) Oh shoot, no apologies necessary. Thank you for catching that. I honestly did not understand the whole html thing for a while and I am still learning so I am sorry about that.

Also, we all know Golden Son is the best book in the series;) I hope you enjoy your eventual re-read of the series and enjoy Dark Age more next time!


Petrik Brenda wrote: "i love this review 👏🏻😂 basically represented all my feels too while reading this book... im still salty with that "ressurrection" twists 😂

Dark Age is definetly NOT my best book of this series as ..."


Thank you, Brenda! Good luck with the rest of the book. I'm looking forward to reading your review on it! :)


Petrik David S wrote: "Oh shoot, no apologies necessary. Thank you for catching that. I honestly did not understand the whole html thing for a while and I am still learning so I am sorry about that.

Also, we all know Go..."


No worries! You'll get used to these html thing after a while! :D

Now that's something that we can definitely agree 100% with! Thanks, David! I look forward to rereading the entire series! Considering Pierce Brown's one and a half year publishing speed, it might be in 2021. :)


message 27: by Manisha (new)

Manisha Is the second trilogy essential? Or is the first trilogy where all the glory is at? - I still need to read the third book, and I was wondering whether to postpone it so I can read the rest back to back.


message 28: by Tabitha (new)

Tabitha The first book was pretty brutal. I'm working on the second one now. I agree it's better suited for adults.


Rossana great review!! I'm currently reading it myself and so far I think it's better than Iron Gold, finger crossed!


Petrik Manisha wrote: "Is the second trilogy essential? Or is the first trilogy where all the glory is at? - I still need to read the third book, and I was wondering whether to postpone it so I can read the rest back to ..."

I can't say for sure yet. I super loved the first trilogy, the fourth book too but this one fell a bit short for me. Morning Star is very conclusive though, you should read it if you loved the first two! :)


Petrik Tabitha wrote: "The first book was pretty brutal. I'm working on the second one now. I agree it's better suited for adults."

It gets crazier as it progressed. The one in Dark Age made the events of the first book like children playing around 😂


Petrik Rossana wrote: "great review!! I'm currently reading it myself and so far I think it's better than Iron Gold, finger crossed!"

Thanks, Rossana! Fingerscrossed it will work out all the way for you! I'm really sad that it didn't totally work for me! :/


message 33: by Olga (new) - added it

Olga Your review has given me a lot to think about. I think I really need to reread the series. Now I wonder if I should just wait until the release of the last book.


Pamela I'm only about a third through the book now, so didn't read all of Petrik's review yet, but of the first part that I did read, I totally agree with. I didn't reread the series first and have forgotten some of the background relationships, as there are a ton of characters interlocked in this ongoing war. Also, this has to be one of bleakest, depressing stories I have read in a while. It's emotionally draining to the point of knowing I'll finish the series, cause it's additive, but I almost wish I would have quit reading it after the first 3 books.


Tmsherra Your review is pretty much how I felt through the whole book. The first 80% was slow paced and I would have DNF if I wasn't so invested in the series or characters. The last 20% of the book was 5 stars! Looking forward to the next one.


Petrik Olga wrote: "Your review has given me a lot to think about. I think I really need to reread the series. Now I wonder if I should just wait until the release of the last book."

If it has been years, I really recommend you to reread the previous books first. I was able to read Iron Gold without rereading the previous trilogy; summaries were enough. But this one? Nope, forgotten background relationships, character list increased a lot and I ended up looking through wiki so many times just to remember.


Petrik Pamela wrote: "I'm only about a third through the book now, so didn't read all of Petrik's review yet, but of the first part that I did read, I totally agree with. I didn't reread the series first and have forgot..."

I totally get what you mean, Pamela. Seriously, I read many grimdark SFF, this stands among one of the darkest one I've read. It's pretty depressing, some to the points where it felt deliberately written just for the sake of making things darker and more violent. It gets crazier and crazier the more you read it, best of luck!


Petrik Tmsherra wrote: "Your review is pretty much how I felt through the whole book. The first 80% was slow paced and I would have DNF if I wasn't so invested in the series or characters. The last 20% of the book was 5 s..."

Glad someone agreed with me, I was starting to think I'm the only one or something... xD


Gelisvb It took me forever to read this and it put me behind 13 books on my challange. I liked the second part much better, but the first was a chore.


Petrik Gelisvb wrote: "It took me forever to read this and it put me behind 13 books on my challange. I liked the second part much better, but the first was a chore."

Yeah, I foundn the first half (view spoiler) a struggle to get through. The second half of the book was much better but yeah, took a long time to get there. Pierce Brown's books usually took me 1-3 days max to get through, that includes Iron Gold, this one took me a week.


message 41: by Micaila (new)

Micaila Blankenship Great review! I’m glad you mention that a re-read is necessary (I was planning on skipping that).


message 42: by Jeff (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jeff Schauland I’m 100% in agreement with your review right down to 3.5 stars. Good, solid book, but I missed the character development and felt like this book was sort “forced”. It was longer than necessary and had so many minor characters that it was frustrating at times trying to figure out how they related to the narrative. Also, and I may be in the minority’s here, i felt all the plot twists and backstabbing took away from the story. Overall, the book was just too much for me.
Still, I can’t wait for the next one!


Petrik Micaila wrote: "Great review! I’m glad you mention that a re-read is necessary (I was planning on skipping that)."

Thank you, Micaila! Yeah, if it has been years after you read Iron Gold or the first trilogy, I strongly recommend a re-read. The number of side characters and names to remember are more crucial than ever in the series xD


Petrik Jeff wrote: "I’m 100% in agreement with your review right down to 3.5 stars. Good, solid book, but I missed the character development and felt like this book was sort “forced”. It was longer than necessary and ..."

I agree so much, Jeff. The book really didn't have to be this long imo, as from the side/minor characters, they're on an all-time high for the series and I still can't decide whether rereading the series from the beginning will help me be more invested in them or not. The plot twists and backstabbing were great imo, but their effects were diminished because of non-stop violence with no break. I utterly loved Part 4 so here's hoping that the next book will be much better! :)


message 45: by Ade (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ade I want to cryy ... how long we have to wait til next book ?


Petrik Ade wrote: "I want to cryy ... how long we have to wait til next book ?"

Considering Pierce Brown's speed, I think it's quite safe to assume that it will be released in 2021.


Lucia Awww, sorry you didn't enjoy it better Petrik. I totally see where you are coming from with the tone of this book,it was different than previous books. But contrary to you, it had strong emotional effect on me. Hopefully you will love next book once more :) but I'm kind of worried what Pierce has in store for us LOL


Petrik Lucia wrote: "Awww, sorry you didn't enjoy it better Petrik. I totally see where you are coming from with the tone of this book,it was different than previous books. But contrary to you, it had strong emotional ..."

Ah I really wish it had a strong effect on me. I was left bored in many scenes because they're too non-stop imo. I hope on reread it will better though, it could also be because it's been a while since I've read the previous four books. I'm still excited for the last book! Time for retribution! :D


Kayla Feil I just finished it and I have to agree - Brown's brilliance isn't in his ability to depict violence ad nauseam, it's found in the witticisms between characters and the ingenious war tactics. For me, at least, that's what makes his books so enthralling. I love the development the characters made throughout the book, but having to slog through the butchery to get there was just plain tiresome.


Petrik Kayla wrote: "I just finished it and I have to agree - Brown's brilliance isn't in his ability to depict violence ad nauseam, it's found in the witticisms between characters and the ingenious war tactics. For me..."

Well said, Kayla. I agree with everything you said! I also would've prefer a bit more time to process each death that occurred. For example: (view spoiler). More time to process the death of the characters would've benefited the book more too imo. At this point, many of the deaths were just "ah okay they died, bye."


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