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Rising Up to the Challenge of Our Rival

Pierce Brown’s first novel might actually live up to the “next Hunger Games” hype.

Rising Up to the Challenge of Our Rival

BOOK REPORT for Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown

Cover Story: Avenging Angel
BFF Charm: O Captain! My Captain!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Colors of the Rainbow
Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factors: Caste System, War Games
Relationship Status: Co-conspirators

Cover Story: Avenging Angel

Blood red wings on a black background. If this isn’t a foreboding sign of things to come, I don’t know what is.

The Deal:

In the future, Reds are pioneers. It’s their life’s work—mining under the surface of Mars for helium-3, which is essential for terraforming—that benefits the rest of mankind. It’s Reds who are preparing the planet for the arrival of rest of humanity: the Golds, Silvers, Greens, Blues, Yellows, Purples, Pinks and other colors that humans have been divided into.

Darrow was born a Red. His whole family works in the Martian mines or supports those who do. He’s a Helldiver, one of the few elite miners who dive deep and risk their lives to pull the precious helium-3 from the rocks. He believes what he’s been told: that the surface of Mars is uninhabitable, that it’s up to him and his fellow Reds to turn it into a place people can survive. Until, that is, the day he finds out that he’s been living a lie. The surface of Mars has been habitable for years, and the Reds are merely slave labor.

After his whole world view is turned upside down, Darrow is thrust into a new life far removed from the mines. He infiltrates the elite Institute, a “school” at which he must learn and live the ways of the ruling class, the Golds. His is a rebellion from within, but he quickly learns that rebellion comes with a high price.

BFF Charm: O Captain! My Captain!

Darrow is a kind, loving young man. He’s devoted to his wife and family, and will do pretty damn near anything to make their lives better. He’s a daredevil, too, but that comes with being a Helldiver. He knows he’s good at what he does, but it doesn’t come off a cocky; it’s merely the truth.

Darrow is also strong, beautiful and a force to be reckoned with. He’s smart and ruthless. He can inspire loyalty or fear (or both), depending on what the situation calls for. I’d follow him into battle any day.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Darrow loves his young wife so much, it’s hard not to smile. Theirs is a hard life, but it’s good because they have each other. Theirs is a heartwarming swoon. On the other hand, there’s not much time for action when you’re thrust into battle.

Talky Talk: Colors of the Rainbow

Each of the societal classes in Red Rising use language differently. The Reds use mineslang, things like “bloodydamn” and “gob.” The Golds use much more proper language that sets them above the rest, using instead phrases such as “gorydamn” and calling each other “goodman.” Pierce Brown has created a very convincing new world order, one that seems familiar, reminiscent of times of old where those with money and powerful families owned the castle and everyone else serves them, but is set in a distant future in which humanity has spread out past Earth’s atmosphere and colonized other worlds. Additionally, Brown also doesn’t shy away from being graphic in his detail—Red Rising is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Caste System

It’s never pleasant to read about a system of power in which the powerful walk upon the backs of the poor, but Brown has created an interesting new form of human hierarchy in Red Rising. The Golds are at the very top; the other colors fall underneath, and have various genetically assigned attributes that allow them to perform their color-assigned duties. Golds are the rulers of the planets, the government, the armies. They’re most often gorgeous, like something out of Roman or Greek mythology, and have blonde hair and golden eyes. Reds have been bred for manual labor and complacency, and have rust-colored hair and eyes. It’s a fascinating look at a not-so-unbelievable future.

Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: War Games

The Institute is a “school” in name alone. In reality, it’s a battleground where Golds learn how to be the rulers they’ve been bred to be through military tactics and brute force. It’s a vicious and scary place, but it’s fascinating to read about it from the inside if you’ve never actually experienced something like it. It might also be a little too real in its depiction of some of the more depraved parts of human nature.

Casting Call:

Theo James as Darrow

Relationship Status: Co-conspirators

I have to admit that when I first read about you, Book, the various “reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones” reviews made me roll my eyes a little. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that, for once, the reviews aren’t hyperbole. You’re intense, hold very few punches and can be a little frightening at times, but I definitely want more.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Random House. I received neither caramel corn nor money for this review. Red Rising is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
K