Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

5:56 PM

I recently read this book for the second time, and if there's any book worthy of my first book review on this blog, Red Rising is it. This is a slightly adapted version of the review I posted on Goodreads - this version is shorter and completely spoiler-free. This version is also accompanied with GIFs, because that's important and professional.  Lost GIFs too. It was bound to happen eventually.

First of all I'd like to say a word about the cover art. Isn't it gorgeous? I was in love from the moment I picked it up. It's definitely worth a mention.


I've read this book twice now, and I've been absolutely stunned both times.

Let me explain. This book is epic. This book is raw, gutting, horrifying, brilliant, visceral, incredibly emotional, thrilling. This book tore out my heart, shredded it into tiny pieces, and left me reeling in a state of being unable to read anything else for a good week.


The Goodreads summary:

"The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda."

Reading the summary at first, I was a little doubtful. A class system organized by color? Okay, it's dystopian. Terraformed Mars? Weird, but all right. Command school/students on a battlefield? Is this some bizarre ripoff of The Hunger Games and Ender's Game? (It does have elements of those two books, along with a Lord of the Flies feel, but that's beside the point.) I'd go with it.

I was not disappointed at all. Pierce Brown handles the concepts in this book, outlandish though they may be, with such excellent writing and storytelling and such human elements that one can't help but believe it at times. I was sucked into this story and it didn't let me go for a long, long time.

The plot: I've seen complaints of it being slow, but I didn't seen that personally. Red Rising leads us through its complicated, multi-layered world with enough ease to give Hunger Games (another of my absolute favorites) some fierce competition. I was practically glued to my seat the entire time - I finished the entire book in a matter of hours because I found myself unable to put it down. It is fast-paced, breathless, violent, and completely fascinating. Darrow's struggles, as well as the struggles of the other characters, are dealt with in stunning blows that left me speechless and flailing several times. In a way I've never seen before, Pierce Brown allows his characters to make decisions very few other YA characters would have to make - and leaves no way out of it. This book, and indeed the entire plot, are absolutely brutal. I have no words. Read it. Read it now.

"What is this? WHAT. What is happening. What even is this book. I cannot." Yeah, that's pretty much what my reading experience was like. 
Worldbuilding: Like most dystopian YA books, Red Rising takes place in a probably highly improbable future world. But with this book, I never once felt that the worldbuilding was being shoved in my face. I believed it because he didn't try to explain the class systems too hard, simply allowed them to be there. There were elements of human in the fantastical, and that made the entire experience ten times more raw and believable. I loved the class systems and their customs and slang. The differences between the Golds and the Reds were especially prominent and handled wonderfully.

"Are there more layers to this story and this world? YES THERE ARE." 

Characters: Where to even begin.
Darrow, our protagonist, took my breath away. Darrow is just as raw and lifelike as the rest of the book. Darrow's POV is as raw and human as it gets - for a sixteen-year-old, he displays necessary maturity, logic, and a way of seeing right through people that I appreciated more than I know how to properly say. Darrow is, to put it dramatically, a breath of fresh air in a sea of frustrating YA protagonists. While he often stumbles and makes decisions that might lead him on the wrong path or prove to be a mistake, his loyalty, love for his wife and people, determination to do anything to achieve his end goal of good, and the friendships he formed with some of the Gold students had me rooting for him the entire time.
As for the other characters, I was quickly given an emotional link for each of them, even those characters that I might be annoyed by or absolutely loathe. Selfish, brutal Cassius; mysterious and loyal Sevro; achingly innocent Julian; cunning Mustang (my least favorite and probably the most grey character in the book, in my opinion); and the other characters were stunningly lifelike.
I could go on and on and on about these characters. I was absolutely entranced by them.

Clearly the only appropriate reaction to the epicness that is this book and its characters.

This is not a book for fun or casual reading. This book is brutal, extremely violent, full of crass language, and worth every second spent reading it. The world itself is brutal, and the rough elements of it are necessary and only serve to reinforce it. The writing, unusually flowery for a dystopian novel, is absolutely gorgeous; it flows in an almost flawless way. It brings up challenging ideas of ethics, haunts you for days, and is all in all a brilliant read. I can't praise it enough.

To sum it up: It's not a book for the faint of heart, weak-stomached, or easily emotional, but if you're willing to take the plunge it's absolutely worth it. I'd easily give it five out of five stars and a high recommendation. It's also one of my favorite books, which is pretty high praise.


Stay tuned for more book reviews in the future! You can find reviews and ratings for pretty much all the books I'm reading on Goodreads.


hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.