Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising, #1)

by Pierce Brown


Pierce Brown's heart-pounding debut is the first book in a spectacular series that combines the drama of Game of Thrones with the epic scope of Star Wars.


'Pierce Brown's empire-crushing debut is a sprawling vision . . . Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow' - Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Pandemic

'[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field' - USA Today


Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars, generations of people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.

Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a 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 at Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day 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.

Reviewed by Amber (The Literary Phoenix) on

5 of 5 stars

Red Rising is positively fantastic.

This is one of those books with a lot of hype. And you know, hype isn’t always trustworthy? I’m so pleased to say that Red Rising is a solidly good book with an imaginative world, striking characters, and a whole lot of grit and spirit.

One of the foundations of a good science fiction novel is the science itself. Pierce Brown did a great job at striking balance with this. He didn’t over-explain scientific elements (that can be a sci-fi downfall), and he didn’t create anything too unreasonable. The society in Red Rising felt distantly futuristic, but possible. Some elements of old mythology had struck through the ages, for example the medical procedures far exceed what is currently available… bu still feeling probably centuries into the future. It was well done, especially because YA science fiction is often either pretentious or gratuitous.

I liked Darrow immediately for his streak of arrogance as well as his passion. He is a flawed protagonist, and things do not always go his way. The most impressive protagonists are like this – their struggles help them grow in the story and in the reader’s hearts. While Eo was not as notable to me as perhaps her legacy will prove, I did like other characters as the popped up. In particular, I enjoyed Mustang and Roque. I’m looking forward to seeing more of both of them in the ongoing series.

The plot kept me glued – the Institute was a little like The Poppy War, a little like the Harry Potter series, and written with the blunt rawness of the Dark Tower series. I adored the aesthetics of it. There’s a lot of gore in Red Rising – dismemberment, self-inflicted violence, rape for a start – and it’s important to know that going in. Many things happen off-stage, but there are bloody moments in the immediate storyline as well. None of the events were nonsensical – however brutal, each one held its purpose. I was constantly concerned for the characters’ well-being. Because this is a series, I knew Darrow would survive (although Brown got me concerned for a second at the beginning). But sometimes, I worried I was wrong. There’s a bit of drama, but if you’re looking for a high-action story about caste systems and war and infiltration of society… this is a good one.

Stylistically, this is a bit different than what many people are likely used to in sci-fi, especially YA sci-fi. Red Rising had a lot of action and world-building, and it’s structured in such a way that if it weren’t for the futuristic Mars setting, it would feel like high fantasy. High fantasy is my jam – I love it. But this will throw the unexpected reader. There are some moments where the scenes drag a little, but these are often amidst a flurry of high action sequences, and I believe the slower moments are needed for balance.

Generally, I just devoured this. I have a lot of feelings about the choices made, but all in good ways. Red Rising pulled me in enough that I felt passionately about characters and the plot direction, and as far as I am concerned, those are the best sorts of books.

Also the narrator is fantastic as well, so if you’re considering an audiobook, I highly recommend it. I had to speed it up to 1.5x for my personal tastes, but his voices and accents are great, and he holds your attention.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 30 January, 2020: Finished reading
  • 30 January, 2020: Reviewed