Darrow is a Helldiver and a Red. For generations, Reds have been told that they are preparing the planet for the ‘softer races’, and who will one day join them. He believes, like so many others Reds, that he is doing a noble task. He believes one day that things will get better for his race. He believes in a lie.
One day, Darrow discovers the truth of his planet: Mars has been inhabited for years and the Reds are the slaves of this new world. As Darrow sets upon taking revenge on the Golds, he is recruited by a mysterious group of rebels.
In order to take down the upper class society, Darrow is transformed into a Gold and slips into the elite command school. Before he knows it, Darrow becomes embroiled in the Games of the Institute, and forges alliances with those he must eventually take down. Will Darrow remember his Red roots or will he transform into the Golds he vows to destroy?
I’ve been trying to post this review for a few weeks now. Why? Because I LOVED it.
This book made my heart race, my palms sweat, and my eyes widen with shock every few pages. I took this book with me to work and didn’t want to start my shift because I couldn’t put it down. During my 15 minute break, I ignored the hungry pangs from my stomach and perched on the end of my seat and was consumed again within seconds. I finished the book within those 15 minutes and leapt from my seat, searching for the nearest person I could tell about how AMAZING this book was. Luckily I work in a bookstore and didn’t have to travel far. Within 10 minutes, every person working knew about my excitement for this book.
So why did I love this book? For many, many reasons, but let’s start at the beginning.
The beginning of Red Rising was a little show for me. It took me awhile to get into it, but when I got into it, I got into it. For me, the story really began when Darrow began preparing for his life at the Institute. His process of becoming a Gold reminded me a lot of the Hunger Games, and Katniss’ process of beautification. Except Darrow wasn’t becoming beautiful. He was becoming stronger.
At the Institute, the story shifted gears as Darrow had to quickly adapt and learn how to become a Gold without betraying his roots. There was a process of getting picked for Houses at the Institute that quickly reminded me of Harry Potter, especially as there was an imbalance of power among students, depending on who their parents were in Gold society.
The bulk of the book is the Games of the Institute, which set out to test students, as they compete against other Houses. The Games were brutal tests that set students up for failure; in this new arena, Darrow quickly makes alliances, yet there is always a question of who he can really trust. And as he becomes the leader of his House and advances in the Games, Darrow constantly wonders whether he will be able to destroy the Golds he has befriended when it comes time for him to take down the society.
What I loved about Red Rising was the dynamic nature of Darrow’s character. He wasn’t completely black and white. After the death of a loved one when he’s underground in the caves, Darrow is bent on destroying Golds and getting revenge. But it was fascinating to watch him form alliances with Gold students throughout the Games with that constant question in his mind on who he really trusts and where he truly belongs. I also really liked the complexity that Brown brought to race relations; the Golds seem horrible and malicious when we first hear of them, but we quickly discover, like Darrow, that there is goodness in everyone- even those you least expect it from.
Red Rising is filled with a cast of complex, dynamic, and fascinating characters. My favourite is Minerva, a quirky girl who rivals Darrow in wit and tricks. I liked how Brown didn’t make her a damsel in distress or a typical female character; she is strong, smart, and fiercely loyal. I’m excited to see where Brown takes her character.
The last 50 or so pages brought my teeth on edge. I didn’t want to stop reading, especially as there were several twists that were thrown that had me racing to the finish. My heart was pounding when I got to the last few pages, and I had tears in my eyes at the ending because it was EPIC. Even though Darrow starts off the story as a 16 year old, Red Rising is classified as an adult title, mostly because of the violence and rape.
Red Rising is an fast-paced tale of wit, betrayal, love, and battles. It’s Hunger Games meets Harry Potter, complete with a dynamic cast of characters that will have you cheering one minute, and wailing the next. It makes you question the lengths that humans will go to to oppress one another. It’s raw, it’s violent, it’s epic.
Thanks for reading,