Morning Star (Red Rising #3) follows up The Golden Son as the third installment in the Red Rising Saga. If you read my previous book review on The Golden Son, you know that I was extremely impressed with the work of Pierce Brown.
Coming into this novel, I had big expectations for what was to come. If you have not read Red Rising or The Golden Son, I would advise you to turn away now since this review does spoil certain sections in the first two novels.
If you’re not familiar with how I conduct my book reviews, I typically just deliver the general gist of the book to give you an idea of whether or not this novel might be to your liking. I refrain from analyzing specific plot details that would spoil the reading experience for you.
These book reviews are meant to be a preview trailer, not a plot summary. I only include spoilers for previous novels if the novel is a sequential installment in a series (like Red Rising and The Golden Son in this case).
In short, this book review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of The Morning Star. Enjoy!
What reading genre is Morning Star?
Morning Star is written to be science fiction, much like the previous novels Red Rising and The Golden Son.
Where does the story start back up again in relation to The Golden Son?
Morning Star launches back into the story a year after the heartrending conclusion to The Golden Son.
If you can recall, the last we saw of Darrow was when Adrius au Augustus, better known as The Jackal, captured him at the final victory celebration. Roque betrays Darrow by sticking a needle containing a sedative into his arm. To add insult to injury, The Jackal flaunts the decapitated head of the Sons of Ares leader, Fitchner, while Darrow slowly loses consciousness.
A year after these cataclysmic events, The Morning Star begins with Darrow still imprisoned and slowly losing his sanity. He is weak, isolated, and a shell of his former greatness. Things are looking bleak for Darrow and the Sons of Ares revolution without their two figureheads at the helm.
Are there any major differences between Morning Star and the preceding novels?
There are not many glaring discrepancies between Morning Star and the rest of the series. So if you really enjoyed how the previous novels were written, don’t fret! The writing style in the third edition of this series is still on point with the other books.
By this time in the series, I felt like I had settled into the story’s rhythm completely. I finished up The Golden Son about a month before I jumped back into Morning Star, so all of the story details were still fresh in my mind.
Unlike the transition from Red Rising to The Golden Son, there is no drastic difference in the scenery of the story. Red Rising was largely based in the realm of the Institute, whereas The Golden Son expanded the story to the horizons of space. The overall feel of Morning Star resembles the sequel much more than the debut novel in terms of the interplanetary setting and presence of futuristic technologies.
However, there are some subtle distinctions in world-building and characterization that will be discussed in the subsequent sections.
How is the world building element in Morning Star?
As aforementioned, Morning Star builds off the universe described in the sequel with a heavy emphasis on mammoth spaceships and vast futuristic cities.
Since I had grown fully accustomed to the descriptive writing style of Pierce Brown by the time I picked up this book, I felt much more engrossed in the world of Morning Star relative to the preceding books. This is largely because I had already developed a picture in my head of what the spaceships and cities looked like.
This is not to say that new settings were completely exempt from this book. There are points throughout the novel where the story shifts to unfamiliar territory. In my opinion, these transitions in the setting were a welcome change of pace. It provided enough variation from the norm while still keeping the integrity of the world-building intact.
There could have been a tad more story content strictly devoted toward enhancing world-building. Although the world is quite vast, it did not feel as fully developed as some other sci-fi and fantasy novels that I have read in the past.
I felt that Brown strayed away from going this route because it would have taken away from the action of the novel. So much of what Brown writes is action-heavy and fast-paced. This additional descriptive world-building would have slowed the story down tremendously, which would have detracted from the allure of why readers flocked to this series in the first place.
How is the characterization of Darrow in the Morning Star?
The characterization in this novel is still one of the more captivating elements of this series.
Of course, it all starts with Darrow. He is the centerpiece that takes the characterization of the story to another level. In other reviews I have read online, people pin Darrow as the “perfect” character with no flaws.
In my reading experience, I actually saw quite the opposite. He may seem like an invincible rebel leader at first glance, but as you continue to read into his character more and more, there are several noticeable chinks in his armor.
For one, Darrow has a problem with keeping loved ones close. A prime example of this can be seen with the betrayal of Roque at the end of The Golden Son.
There was a point in the series where Roque was willing to stick his neck out for Darrow after the Augustus family had all but abandoned him. Roque was willing to buy out his contract despite all of the potential harm that would come to him and his family. Roque even goes as far as to call him brother. You would think that Darrow would return the favor, but he instead pushes him away. For this reason, Darrow is as much to blame for the betrayal of Roque as anyone.
Furthermore, Darrow is not the most morally upstanding protagonist out of the bunch. He knowingly makes decisions that severely harm or even kill thousands of innocent people. The way Darrow sees it, there are bound to be some friendly casualties when you split the galaxy into a civil war. Although Darrow performs these deeds with the intent of bringing equality to all rungs of society, this does not cleanse all of his prior sins.
Darrow is aware that he cannot satisfy everyone. As a result, he must make decisions that work exclusively toward his end goals, even if there is a heavy toll to be paid. In Morning Star, there is no shortage of these kinds of decisions. Darrow is routinely faced with complicated choices that challenge his moral integrity. As a reader, you definitely find out what lengths that Darrow will go to accomplish his goals.
These elements add a considerable amount of depth and unpredictability to his character, which feeds into the overall appeal of the novel.
How is the characterization of the supporting cast in Morning Star?
I found the supporting cast to be just as impressive in Morning Star as the preceding novels.
The mangy yet loyal Sevro is back again in full form. I take a particular liking to his character because I see him as the partner in crime to all of Darrow’s antics. Although Darrow is the figurehead of the revolution, Sevro is every bit as important to the operation as anyone else.
Additionally, I have always been entertained by the camaraderie he shares with his loyal pack of soldiers, the Howlers. I just feel a little bit safer every time they are around in the story. Needless to say, there is plenty of action to be seen from them in Morning Star.
The fan-favorite Ragnar also returns in this science fiction thriller, still as big and brawny as ever. Fortunately, readers get to learn a bit more about the background of Ragnar in this novel. Where Ragnar was just a viable weapon on the battlefield in The Golden Son, he begins to come into his own in Morning Star.
Another character I have always been intrigued by is Cassius au Bellona. Just like Roque, Cassius also felt betrayed by Darrow. In Red Rising, Cassius was actually one of my favorite characters. With this novel, these former brothers in arms are turned enemies against one another. It is always entertaining to see their two personalities clash together once more.
There are also some new characters thrown into the mix as well. One of which is a Gray female sharpshooter named Holiday. Her introduction to the story is seamless, adding another strong character to the already impressive supporting cast.
There are so many other great characters as well, such as Mustang and Roque and the Telemanuses! I just cannot fit all of their descriptions into one little preview. All in all, the supporting cast is remarkable in every respect. They accentuate the strengths of Darrow throughout the story and greatly enhance the quality of the novel.
How was the action in Morning Star?
As always, Pierce Brown showcased why the Red Rising Saga is known for its action sequences.
Whenever there was not any action currently happening within the storyline, it was always looming on the forefront. You have undoubtedly grown familiar with how the action sequences are typically written at this point in this series. Morning Star retains this same overall dynamic atmosphere.
In my opinion, the most fascinating part about the action was the sheer diversity of combat styles present. There are one on one clashes, full-scale ground wars, and even intergalactic battles between spaceships. This definitely kept the story fresh and entertaining throughout.
Given the nature of previous novels in the series, I was always afraid that the fray might swallow up one of my favorite characters. Of course, all readers want to see their favorite characters live it out until the end.
The way the action is structured, Brown deliberately manipulates the reader’s emotional attachment to the characters. This helped keep the intrigue of the action intact despite the tremendous amount of physical conflict present.
If you are not a big fan of action, this novel may not be for you, considering that it carries such heavy weight in the storyline. Personally, I am thrilled whenever action is thrust into the spotlight, so I really enjoyed these reading sections.
What is the overarching theme of Morning Star?
Without a doubt, the overarching theme of Morning Star is the importance of friendship.
In the book’s acknowledgments section, Pierce Brown wrote that he had difficulty writing Morning Star initially. He secluded himself in a far-off cabin to concentrate on writing this novel promptly. This plan backfired, and he faced writing block from all of the overwhelming possibilities Darrow could potentially take.
Brown finally found writing solace when he returned home to his friends and family. This realization of the importance of friendship translated into Morning Star. Brown even stated:
As Brown says, Darrow is not the focal point of Morning Star. Instead, other characters emerge and creep into the spotlight. I believe that this shift in focus made all the difference in expanding the story’s scope and creating a superior reading atmosphere.
How easy of a read is Morning Star?
The word count of Morning Star comes in at approximately 190,000. This translates into a total page count of 544. The average reader will take a little under 13 hours to read this novel in its entirety.
Thus, this book is not too intimidating of a read, especially if you are already used to the science fiction genre. The fast-paced action of the book certainly helps to speed the reading experience along. If you are a serious fan of action, you should have no problem getting through this book.
Are there any flaws with Morning Star?
Although the plot of this novel is densely packed with action from start to finish, there was a point in the middle of the novel where I took an extended break from reading.
This may just have been because I was busy pursuing projects outside of reading. Nonetheless, it is certainly something to note. This took place somewhere within the middle sections of the book. There was a bit of a lull in the story before the action picked up again, which may have contributed to my reading hiatus.
I am usually a relatively steady reader, so I was sort of surprised that I took a break at all. Thus, there may have been a couple of minor flaws in the slow-paced segments of the story where I lost some interest.
I stated before that the world-building was above average, but not top tier. My basis of comparison is a bit skewed since I am pitting this science fiction novel against the likes of some of the best science fiction and fantasy novels in the industry. If there was a way that Brown could graphically illustrate the world without taking away from the rapid pace of the story, I truly believe that Morning Star would have benefited tremendously from it.
Of course, this is a lot easier said than done.
What emotions did Morning Star make you feel?
There were times for celebration and moments of pure heartbreak. After following these characters on their journey for such a long time, it is hard not to latch onto the protagonists emotionally.
In this novel, there are definitely some rough spots. Unfortunately, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for Darrow, Mustang, Sevro, and Ragnar. These characters bear the brunt of the load because they act as the forces to invoke change. As a reader, you want them to prevail against any hardship that comes their way.
One particular rough spot was reading through the first few chapters of the novel and witnessing the inhumane conditions Darrow experiences under the direction of the Jackal. It is almost as if Darrow is a completely different character.
The once noble, gallant intergalactic Peerless Scarred warrior had been reduced to a shell of his former self. It was challenging for me to read through these beginning stages because I wanted to deny this fall from grace. But at the same time, Morning Star is a story. A story would cease to be a story without conflict.
In stark contrast to these depressing sections, the pleasant moments really made my day. It was nice to see the companionship between some of my old favorite characters. It is a little thing, but the casual jibes by Sevro always put me in a good mood.
In summary, I felt the whole spectrum of emotions with Morning Star. All of the anger, happiness, sadness, and elation I experienced is exactly what I look for in a good book.
How is the ending of Morning Star? (NO SPOILERS)
I was pleasantly surprised with the conclusion to the original Red Rising Trilogy. Unfortunately, with most book series I have read in the past, authors have trouble closing out a series in a satisfactory yet sensible manner. It is hard to tie up every loose end while still maintaining the charm of the story.
Sometimes authors like to throw a wrench into the plot resolution that absolutely ruins the entire series. The go-to example I like to use for this is the classic “It was all a dream” scenario. Unfortunately, this sort of conclusion rarely ever bodes well for any science fiction or fantasy novel.
Fortunately, I was rather happy with how the Morning Star ended. There were a couple of plot twists that I did not see coming whatsoever. Yet, Brown still somehow managed to fit them within the general scheme of the story.
I feel as though I am a relatively intuitive reader. In most novels, I can sense where the general direction of the story is going from a mile away. With Morning Star, I was left in the dark. But in a good way! It kept me on the edge of my seat while reading through the conclusion.
By the time I reached the end of the novel, I had read the last one hundred pages in a single sitting without even knowing it. If that isn’t a sign of a good ending, I do not know what is!
Is Morning Star the final book in the Red Rising Saga?
The Red Rising Saga was originally advertised as the Red Rising Trilogy for those of you that do not know. Pierce Brown had meant to wrap up the first three books with the release of Morning Star.
Although the original three books are still interconnected, there is now a secondary trilogy in the same world as the original Red Rising Trilogy. For this reason, Pierce Brown elected to rebrand this science fiction series as The Red Rising Saga.
So what does all this mean?
It means that Morning Star is not the final book in the Red Rising Saga. So if you’re obsessed with this series like I am, there is more reading content on the way!
Morning Star Review Recap
If you have gotten this far into the Red Rising Saga, there is no reason that you should stop now. I highly suggest that you cap off the original trilogy with Morning Star.
Brown has a knack for setting up plot twists that make your head reel. Not to mention that the clashes of the different character personalities are top tier.
I am curious about what Brown has in store for us with the next book in the Red Rising Saga, Iron Gold. Once I pick up this book, you can bet that I will be sharing my thoughts with the rest of the fantasy book fanatic community!
To read the third installment of the Red Rising Saga, click here to check out the latest prices on Amazon to buy a physical or audible copy.
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“A man thinks he can fly, but he is afraid to jump. A poor friend pushes him from behind.” He looks up at me. “A good friend jumps with.”
“Forget a man’s name and he’ll forgive you. Remember it, and he’ll defend you forever.”
“Man is no island. We need those who love us. We need those who hate us. We need others to tether us to life, to give us a reason to live, to feel.”
“If this is the end, I will rage toward it.”
“In war, men lose what makes them great. Their creativity. Their wisdom. Their joy. All that’s left is their utility.”
Morning Star Review Rating: 8/10!
Back of the Book Blurb
Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.
Finally, the time has come.
But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.