Red Rising by Pierce Brown Book Review

Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown #ScienceFiction

Title:Red Rising

Series:Red Rising, Book 1

Author:Pierce Brown

Genre:Science Fiction, Action & Adventure


Publisher:Hodder & Stoughton

I didn’t know much about this book or the series or how popular it was before starting book one. A friend who knew I was into science fiction recommended it to me, so I started reading it. About 5% or 10% into reading Red Rising, I was convinced my friend hated me. Starting your morning with a good session of crying your eyes out is not ideal, is it? Anyway, before I tell you more about what I thought of Red Rising by Pierce Brown, here’s the book blurb, the cover, and all that goodness.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Blurb

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.


Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all al lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Red Rising by Pierce BrownUntil the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

Break the chains. Live for more.

Get this amazing science fiction story on Amazon.


Some reviewers said Red Rising by Pierce Brown is something like Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games. That phrase was used to describe the book in its marketing campaign, and I guess it worked. I just don’t get why Darrow, the protagonist of Red Rising is likened to either of these characters. It is one of the many reasons I am happy I didn’t look much into the book before reading it.

Darrow is a teenager in the first book. But is he really one? Sure, he’s the right age, he’s sixteen when his adventure starts. But he’s married, he’s been working the mines drilled deep under Mars’ surface for years, and he bears the responsibility of feeding his family. He’s quite familiar with the injustices of the world, a wold much more brutal than anything you’ve seen in The Hunger Games.

The Reds, Darrow’s people, are nothing more than slave laborers. In the first few pages of the book, their miserable life is palpable. They slave away in the mines, trying to make impossible quotas. If you work hard, you get rewards. Or so they say, until they find out Mars is not a meritocracy.

Darrow has to see his wife executed for singing a forbidden song – the Song of Persephone. He also has to help her by pulling her legs to make her death quick. Then he’s supposed to watch her dangle from her noose until she rots away, because burying the condemned is forbidden. And before you accuse me of revealing too much, this is just the introduction.

Darrow plays the ultimate infiltration game: he becomes one of the ruling class, a Gold. The people who oppress all others and see themselves as conquerors of the galaxies. Unlike any other character, Darrow has plenty of moments where he catches himself admiring the Golds. Making a friend here and there, forming a bond. Bonds that he’ll most likely have to betray.

The protagonist of Red Rising isn’t ever deceived about what he’s supposed to achieve. He is clear on his purpose and on his end game. He is more mature than adults I’ve read, even if his teenager side comes out once in a while. Darrow’s strength and perseverance are truly inspiring, and his internal conflicts are sometimes heart breaking. His adaptability and the speed with which he learns, his deductive abilities, everything makes him almost overpowered. Until you take a look at his enemies. There isn’t one point in this book where you’re not afraid they’ll get the upper hand and use it end him.

Darrow has no support system. The Sons of Ares that helped him infiltrate are not there to help him. He cannot ask anyone for advice, he cannot brainstorm his plans or his findings. He has only himself to rely on. He compensates by making friend with the weird and the outcast of Golden elites. Yet no matter how close he gets to anyone, he would never be able to reveal his true self. Which is probably the saddest thing about Darrow’s undercover mission.

The world of Red Rising is built on a futuristic recreation of the Roman Empire. The names, organization, philosophy, everything is reminiscent of old history and Latin lessons, so you can imagine this totally appealed to the Latin nerd in me. The Golds see themselves as the Roman Empire if it had managed to avoid its decline. They value strength and power, everything else being debatable. Most debatable of all–loyalty. Being loyal is a currency, much like everything else.

The class system in this world is fascinating. There is a strict hierarchy and every color serves a clear purpose. There is no way of being anything other than what your color dictates. Golds see themselves as being above everyone else. Even among their ranks, there is a pecking order that almost all of them abide by. Challenging the societal norms and the hierarchy are never done in the open.

If you want a science fiction series to get hooked on, than I suggest you pick up Red Rising. The society, its beliefs, its dealings, its politics and strategic games are intricate and compelling, closer to Dune and A Song of Ice and Fire than anything else I’ve seen mentioned. You will cry, you will be unable to put the book down, but you will enjoy every heart pounding moment of adventure.

About the Author

Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.

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Writer, traveler, coffee and book addict, and also founder of EyesOnBooks. I've loved books all my life and now they are a huge part of my work. I have been blogging for about twelve years and have worked as a PR and marketing consultant in the IT&C field before shifting all my focus to books and authors.

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