Red Rising (Red Rising #1) is the first fantasy book of the Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown. I was browsing the Barnes and Noble recommended reading list and found the general gist of this fantasy story to be somewhat compelling.
My curiosity piqued, I perused a few online reviews to get an unbiased third party perspective. I found out the fantasy novel was a New York Times best seller and has received much praise since its initial release in 2014.
From there, it was an easy decision to take this fantasy book home and at least give the first couple chapters a try. Now here I am, providing you with this Red Rising review!
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.
This Red Rising review is 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.
In short, this Red Rising review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of Red Rising. Enjoy!
What reading genre is Red Rising?
This tale is considered a science fiction thriller.
What is the setting of Red Rising?
The story is set on a futuristic Mars, where space exploration and planet colonization are no longer a thing to be scoffed at. The setting of Red Rising certainly fulfills the archetypical aspects of a world in the science fiction genre.
Who is the primary protagonist of Red Rising?
The protagonist is a young man named Darrow borne to the lowest rung of Martian society called the Reds. Toiling as a miner deep underground, he is convinced of a lie.
What lie is Darrow convinced of you may ask?
He believes himself to be a part of the first wave of Mars pioneers commencing the terraforming effort.
He is thoroughly unaware that Mars has already been inhabited for centuries, led by an elite aristocratic class of individuals called the Golds.
Upon the realization that Darrow and his entire community of Reds has been deceived his entire life, Darrow resolves to take the fight to the Golds. With the odds stacked against him, Darrow embarks on a treacherous crusade to fight for the freedom of the Reds.
How is the characterization of the supporting cast?
I personally enjoyed the supporting cast in Red Rising.
Many of the characters have are dual-natured, similar to Darrow. What do I mean by this? The characters seem to be wholeheartedly loyal to Darrow but then show some suspicious hints at possible betrayal.
Consequently, the reader is always guessing at who the friends of the protagonist really are. It is extremely difficult to pin down where the loyalties of each character lies. Even in Darrow.
This guessing game keeps the reader on their toes because not all of these hints are unfounded. There are plot twists where characters do turn on one another.
These plot twists can be satisfactory and heartbreaking at the same time. It may be rewarding in that the betrayal validates a certain claim that a reader has on a character. Yet, at the same time, it may be tragic to witness a friend turncoat and befriend the antagonist.
What are the weaknesses of the characterization in Red Rising?
One of the major weaknesses that I saw is that some of the major characters of the supporting cast are introduced midway through novel.
For this reason, I got less time with certain characters as I would have preferred. This may be a limitation of the way the story is structured rather than a fault on the part of Pierce Brown.
Nonetheless, when I read novels, I like to develop a relationship with the characters as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Red Rising.
Another petty qualm I had with the characterization is the confusing nature of the names.
The names of most of the individuals in this novel stem from Roman origin. As a result, most characters have similar names. This threw me off, especially when a bunch of these characters would collectively interact.
I would easily lose track of which character is which in these beginning stages.
What adds to the seriousness of this confusion is that some of the characters are allies and other characters are enemies. Thus, I had a challenging time grasping where the loyalties of a certain character lied at that specific moment in time.
Let it be known that this confusion was only present when these characters were introduced. As the story progressed, this trivial issue resolved itself on its own.
How long does it take to read Red Rising?
Red Rising is not too shabby when it comes to reading length.
After crunching the numbers, I found that it takes the average reader approximately 9 and a half hours to read this book in its entirety. This is about an average sized novel in the fantasy genre.
Is Red Rising an easy read?
This novel is not too much of a time investment, coming in at four hundred pages exactly.
After the first couple chapters, I thought I had a general sense of where the book was going. I was pleasantly surprised when the novel made some unexpected turns for the better.
The first couple pages were a bit of a struggle to get through, however, once my attention was captured Brown did a phenomenal job of leaving the reader with a cliffhanger almost every chapter.
How is the story structure of Red Rising?
The story structure of Red Rising is organized fairly well. In my opinion, the structure of the story was definitely not one of its strengths. However, it also was not one its weaknesses.
The beginning portion of the novel could have used some improvement.
It does take a bit of time to be fully immersed into the world of Red Rising. This is the first novel of the Red Rising saga. For this reason, you can hardly blame Pierce Brown for the extensive descriptions about the setting in the introductory phases.
After all, he is not setting up the story for this novel alone. He is preparing for the long term. Four novels to be exact!
Nonetheless, the first couple pages of the novel is where you grab the attention of the reader. For the first chapter or two of Red Rising, I did not feel like I was engrossed into the story.
Once the action started to roll, the story never lost momentum.
After I was firmly in place with the framework of the story, the narrative really picked up. By the hundred page mark, I was fully drawn into the story.
This is why I do not mark the story structure as a weakness of Red Rising. I may just be a bit greedy with how intriguing the first couple pages of my stories are.
The core of the story sets up plot twist after plot twist. Consequently, it is hard to pull yourself away because you have a craving to see what happens next. I will say that the story tread down a direction that I did not foresee in the initial sections.
This unanticipated swing is what roped me into the story and cleared up any vagueness as to what Darrow aimed to accomplish.
Does Red Rising get better or worse with each chapter?
The story undoubtedly gains momentum as the plot thickens and a motley of personalities are introduced into the fold.
The way Brown weaves the vast relationship web and complicates character relationships with unforeseen scenarios kept me on my toes gawking at what could possibly come next.
I absolutely reveled in seeing the progression of Darrow throughout the novel. His perspectives inevitably shift as he undergoes life rendering experiences that leave him wondering if he is in the right.
His moral dilemmas ultimately forced me to question my own mindset and stances on various aspects of my life. Any book that makes me think that hard has to be pretty darn good.
What are the predominant themes in Red Rising?
A foremost theme in Red Rising is revenge.
Revenge is the centerpiece of this novel.
Darrow is cast into the lowest rung of society and oppressed by the elite upper class of Golds. He is thrust into inhumane working conditions, having never seen the light of day until the truth is revealed to him.
All individuals have a right to certain basic freedoms. Many of these basic freedoms are stripped of Darrow. The freedoms that have been stripped from him fuel his hankering for vengeance. This craving for revenge reveals a primal side of Darrow that gives his character depth.
As the reader, we understand the rationale behind why he makes the controversial decisions that he does. Revenge enhances the characterization of Darrow, encouraging a bond between the reader and the protagonist.
Revenge also makes it difficult for the reader to judge what sort of action will take next. Will his morals prevail or his newfound rage? The unpredictable nature of this theme of revenge engages the reader in ways that other themes simply could not.
Another predominant theme in Red Rising is individual versus society.
Darrow identifies multiple flaws in the current societal structure. There are others that do not share the perspective of Darrow, believing that society is about as flawless as it gets.
To bring about a new regime of fairness and equality, the current structure of society must be torn down. With every social revolution, there are those desperate to hold onto their power. In this case, those attempting to hold onto power are the Golds.
This pits Darrow against the aristocratic class of Golds in power. To bring down the Golds, Darrow cannot do it alone. He must rally people to his cause, bring awareness to the foibles of society. Whether he succeeds or fails in this mission is up to you to find out.
Is the ending of Red Rising gratifying?
The ending is gratifying in that leaves you speechless. The culmination of the story was not at all what I expected to happen… and I loved it!
On the other hand, the ending also leaves on a massive cliffhanger that leaves you directly into the sequel, The Golden Son. So if you are the type of reader that likes to have closure with your novels, Red Rising may not be for you.
The ending definitely does not coincide with the one-and-done type of reader.
How did Red Rising make you feel?
Red Rising was an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end.
Since this novel revolves around the theme of revenge, this book is certainly not lacking in the emotional rage department.
Once I was fully immersed into the story, I began to feel the same rage toward the Golds as Darrow felt. The oppression was palpable and I wanted to see justice take hold.
This anger also accompanied feelings of empathy.
The pristine writing of Pierce Brown made it easy for me to put myself in the shoes of Darrow. I felt the pangs of suffering and misery at the realization that life is not at all what he thought it was.
For all the moments of anger and sadness I felt, there were also brief stretches of happiness over the course of the story.
The feelings of anger and sadness preceded these feelings of happiness, which is why I cherished them so much when they finally came. If I were to guess, this emotional seesaw was deliberate on the part of the writer.
Is Red Rising worth the read?
Yes. Red Rising is certainly worth the read. Although I had my doubts at the onset of the novel, this novel blew me away.
My bold prediction is that in the coming years this novel will become a staple of the science fiction genre. It is so well put together that I believe it will eventually attract a cult following if it has not already.
What’s more? This novel is the first of a multi-volume saga! So if you are infatuated with the narrative of Red Rising, there are plenty more adventures to be had with your favorite characters. I am personally psyched that I found a new book series that I am enthusiastic about.
Red Rising Review Recap
|Science Fiction Elements||✔|
I can honestly say after this Red Rising review that this novel by Pierce Brown is a must read for all the fantasy fanatics out there.
The story is beautifully constructed, and I was left dumbfounded with plot twists that had me kicking myself for not seeing them earlier. Just masterful.
I will be continuing this series with The Golden Son in the coming months!
To embark on this breathtaking journey yourself and get a physical or digital copy of Red Rising, check out these discounted prices on Amazon.
Click over to My Top Science Fiction Books to see other pristine science fiction novels like Red Rising.
“Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.”
“The measure of a man is what he does when he has power.”
“Love and war are two different battlefields.”
“Sharpened by hate. Strengthened by love.”
“Emptiness is living chained by fear, fear of loss, of death.”
Red Rising Review Rating: 8.5/10!
Back of the Book Blurb
“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.