ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Red Rising is the oldest ARC I have on my TBR. One of my 2017 goals was to read and review it, because I always felt so much pressure when I’d think about picking it up, because this is such a beloved book in the community.
In this world that takes place in our universe, mostly on Mars, everyone is subdivided into color categories based on their skill sets, income, hair color, and what last name they possess (information provided by the Red Rising Wiki page):
• Golds – Rulers of society
• Silvers – Financiers and businessmen
• Whites – The clergy
• Coppers – Administrators, lawyers and bureaucrats
• Blues – Astronavigators of ships
• Yellows – Doctors and scientists
• Greens – Programmers and developers
• Violets – The creative class such as artists
• Oranges – Mechanics
• Grays – Law-enforcement, security, military and other armed personnel
• Browns – Servants
• Obsidians – “Monstrous race only bred for war”
• Pinks – Pleasure slaves
• Reds – The unskilled and menial laborers
Red Rising is also broken up in to three parts, and because a few friends have asked me to break the story down for them, I’m going to! I will not spoil any main plot lines, and I will try to be as vague as possible, but please do not continue reading any further if you wish to go into Red Rising completely blind!
“I look at him for a moment. Words are a weapon stronger than he knows. And songs are even greater. The words wake the mind. The melody wakes the heart. I come from a people of song and dance. I don’t need him to tell me the power of words.”
➽ Part I: Our main protagonist’s journey starts out in the lows of the lows, because he is a Red. Darrow is the youngest HellDiver in his red colony, where he works in the mines all day, trying to make Mars livable. He for sure is the strongest and the most efficient miner, too, even though he will never receive the credit for it. But something happens that changes Darrow’s life and outlook forever, forcing him to go to the surface of Mars.
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
➽ Part II: Darrow wakes up and meets with the Sons of Ares, and starts his transformation to enhance his body, so he can pass as a Gold and infiltrate their ranks by performing well enough at their military school, the Institute. Darrow was bitten by something when he was younger, so he and his heart are rare, but strong enough, to endure all of the surgeries. Maybe my favorite part of this book was learning about the Carver and his work. Oh, and Evey, because I loved her instantly and pictured Mercy from Overwatch and it made my fangirl thirsty heart so very happy. Anyways, Darrow goes to the Institute, performs very well, and is picked tenth out of one thousand students at the school and will now move on to the next part of their schooling.
“I am the Reaper and death is my shadow.”
➽ Part III: After performing a horrible and terrible act to move on to the next part of his schooling, we realize that all the different houses have pickled different people and given each group a castle. Darrow’s house, House Mars, cannot decide a leader, because they are all confrontational alpha males, so they split up into four different groups. We also become aware that this is being broadcasted, and higher ups are watching to recruit the strongest players. Also, if I’m being honest, this part feels like a rape filled The Hunger Games. Like, to the point that I’m honestly surprised Suzanne Collins wasn’t like, “what the fuck?”
“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”
Also, it needs to be said that there are trigger warnings for rape, sexual assault, and graphic violence, because I had no idea going into this book that there would be so much rape. I was so surprised. I feel like the book community really paints this as a YA SFF coming of age story, which I guess it is, but it is so much darker than I ever imaged. I don’t give a shit that Darrow was sixteen when this book started, this is an ADULT book.
Overall, I did enjoy this, actually more than The Hunger Games, but you can tell this story is so heavily influenced from The Hunger Games that it just ends up feeling bad. That parallels are consistent, and it was something that I just couldn’t unsee.
I also found it a little unbelievable that all these high up Golds would allow the chance of their children to be killed, especially for viewing pleasure. I understand that most have multiple kids, and this is their way to prove their worth, but I just can’t imagine that they would be okay allowing their kids to be a part of this academy where there is such a high death (and rape) turnover rate. Or, at the very least, they would train every child from the time they could walk into becoming amazing warriors and never allow their children to go into the Institute so unprepared and unable to fight like so many did.
I also hated how this story used rape to make Darrow look like a savior constantly. The book is brutal enough; we don’t need to have the rape ploy thrown in our faces every chapter, just so Darrow can save and/or avenge all the helpless women. Also, Darrow kills because of rape constantly, and then towards the end when he gets to play judge and dish out some punishments, he finds it in his heart to make it a bonding exercise. Like, please, it’s gross, tiresome, and pathetic. This book would have been leagues better without this hot mess of rape plot devices.
Also, Darrow wasn’t the most likable main character. I completely understand that he was only sixteen when starting his journey, so I try so very hard to cut him slack, but he makes the most questionable decisions, especially with everything he has riding on his performance. Also, if I was grieving over the love of my life, I probably wouldn’t be looking at every freakin’ girl I see, calling them “so beautiful” and admiring them every other chapter. Like, I get it, sixteen year old boys are horny, but it was so unnecessary and I think that I felt more impacted by Eo than Darrow ever did. Darrow felt more driven by his dick than by his rage or want for revenge, in my opinion.
My favorite character was, hands down, Cassius, a friend that Darrow makes at the start of him joining the Institute. I felt for his character so much, and I felt like every action he performed was so valid. His choices where so believable, and everything he did I feel like I would have done if I was in his position. He was for sure the most realistic character to me, and I couldn’t help but love him and his story arc. Like, if I continue on with Golden Son, it is 100% because of Cassius.
Overall, I’m mostly just happy I finally have read this ARC copy. I did enjoy this book; I just didn’t love it the way everyone else seems to. I feel like it would have had a much bigger impact on me if I hadn’t already read The Hunger Games and been a part of the hype for that series. I hated the use of rape in this, and I just felt like the story did leave a lot to be desired. Like I said, this is a beloved series in the book community, so if you’re at all interested I would for sure give it a shot.