Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publish Date: 28 January 2014

Page Count: 401 pages

After listening to people rave about the Red Rising Saga for years and years (I even listed it as number one in my top series I want to read post), I finally made the time to check it out, and unfortunately, it wasn’t for me. My star ratings are based on my enjoyment rather than the book’s objective quality, and with Red Rising, it was a case of unmet expectations.

Red Rising introduces the series’ protagonist Darrow, a miner and member of a dystopian society’s lowest caste. When Darrow discovers that he and the other Reds are essentially enslaved under false pretences, he seeks help to infiltrate the prevailing class and bring them down from within. 

Despite being pretty much what it says on the tin, my first wobble with Red Rising was due to the colour-coded social system. I’d expected the book would provide this concept with some nuance, but it’s fairly simplistic and perhaps partly why people seem unsure whether this is an adult or young adult series. 

The second surprise was the narrow scope of the book. Perhaps I have Tommy Arnold to blame, whose incredible illustrations for the Subterranean Press Red Rising editions had me expecting a dark and complex military epic. But something like 70% of Red Rising focuses on a Hunger Games-style war game, and I didn’t find it that interesting. The dominant ‘Golds’ are supposed to be so physically and mentally advanced as to transcend humanity. Yet they spend the first 20 days of their hunger game bickering and deciding what to do before they end up Lord of the Flies-ing each other. Based on how Brown talks up the Golds early in the book, I’d expected complex political machinations and grand, secret schemes, not just betrayals and general stabiness.

But the main reason I found it difficult to enjoy this book was how much I disliked Darrow (and all of the characters, really). Of course, you don’t need to have likeable characters to enjoy a book, but there’s usually a payoff. Darrow’s outdated concept of gender roles and his obsession with physique and ableness just make Red Rising read like a dudebro’s fantasy about becoming a Real Man.

I imagine this series does get better, but I gave up on book two about 25% in. While Golden Son did begin to address some of my misgivings about the first book, there wasn’t enough there to keep me interested.

On the plus side, after reading Red Rising, I sold my FairyLoot special editions, and now I have more money to spend on new books!

Trigger warnings: Alcoholism, death of family, hanging, homophobia, implied rape,

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One thought on “Red Rising by Pierce Brown

  1. You didn’t read the book if you think that Darrow has a „outdated concept of gender-roles“.


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