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Morning Star
Red Rising Trilogy, book 3
by Pierce Brown
Del Rey, $27.00, 515pp
Published: February 2016

This is the third in a new trilogy called Red Rising Trilogy.  Click here for the review of the first book, Red Rising and here for the second book, Golden Son. This is an epic finale to a fabulous  debut story (at least, I’m pretty sure these are his first published works.)  If you enjoy broad (the entire solar system) world-building, complex characters whose inner thoughts are hidden from the reader, and epic-sized moral quandaries (how many dead billions is enough?) – you just should NOT miss this story.  It’s a pretty standard basis:  one man against the system trying to save the whole society.  But it is soooo well done.  I just don’t know if I can do the author justice in a small review but I shall try mightily.

In this universe, mankind has left Earth and spread throughout the solar system.  Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste in his society.  Reds labor in the mines doing the most dangerous of work, for the betterment of the whole human race.  Darrow lives in the mines of Mars with dreams of the day the surface is claimed for his children; but he and his fellow Reds have been lied to – for generations.  The surface is covered with cities and parks for the pleasure of everyone but the Reds who are deliberately being kept in slavery.  Everything changes when Darrow’s wife, Eo, is killed for her rebellion.  Darrow is left for dead, as well, but rescued by an underground movement.  The Sons of Ares know the truth and are looking for ways to overthrow the tyranny of the Golds, the highest caste.  The different castes have been deliberately bred for particular traits for generations.  Golds are the epitome of human intelligence combined with great strength and beauty.  Darrow is offered a choice of becoming a Gold and infiltrating their training academy where the next generation of Gold Rulers is chosen.  After extensive surgery and training, Darrow enters a world he never knew existed with rules and traditions that are unlike anything he’s experienced.

In the second book, after Darrow survived the training academy, he is further tested in war games but his meteoric rise is cut short when the Bellonas successfully ambush his training ship and he barely escapes with his life.  Darrow is captured by the corrupt Sovereign, a woman whose ego exceeds her grasp. He then determines that his next step to realizing his dead wife’s dream is to take down the Sovereign.  In his usual inimitable way, Darrow gathers up his loyal friends and convinces his ex-patron, Augustus, that he can overthrow the Sovereign on Luna, and give control of the entire Society to Augustus and Mars.  But the traits that inspire almost fanatical loyalty are the same traits that will get him destroyed if anyone knows his origins.

At the end of the second book, Darrow is imprisoned by his enemy, the Jackal; brother to his love, Mustang, son of his mentor, Augustus – who was the one to kill Darrow’s wife and start him on this life-changing course.  Darrow was betrayed by a dear friend and others are dead, just when they thought they’d had a victory over the Jackal.  The imprisonment is brutal and none of his surviving friends are looking for him; the Jackal has successfully convinced everyone that the rogue Red masquerading as a Gold has been executed.  Almost none – his best friend, Sevro never stopped looking.  Months later, when Darrow feels broken in spirit and body, he is finally rescued.

Once safe with the Sons of Ares, Darrow has to rebuild his strength and his mind.  Although he is all but revered, his abilities are now suspect.  No one knows, least of all him, if he still has what it takes to lead a system-wide rebellion.  He comes into conflict with Sevro who has been leading the rebellion during the months of imprisonment.  Darrow would like to sit back and let Sevro lead but his vision takes over and he knows he has to wrest control back.

Once Darrow is again at the helm, he has to make a deal with the devil – the Moon Lords – in order to keep them out of the fray when he finally engages with the Sovereign to take her down.  And then he has to muster an army to go against an entrenched enemy – but he has more support within all the Colors than he imagines, and he has a plan to bring over the second most powerful Color – the Obsidians.  A plan not without peril as the Obsidians (the only Color to challenge the Golds generations earlier) have been bred to worship the Golds as Gods – and it’s hard to see your Gods as lesser beings.

Again, this book stands out as much for the superb plotting as the structure.  The story is related from first person – Darrow.  And while this has challenges for the writer, Pierce writes like he invented this stuff.  He does not bog down the story with deep insights into Darrow’s psyche; we just about never get a deep look into his thoughts or feelings.  It’s more like we’re getting his surface thoughts, those things he’s thinking about in that moment. And Darrow doesn’t analyze his friends either; again, we get just those reactive thoughts as he responds to the moment.  And you might think it would leave the gentle reader bored, not really connected to the character, it doesn’t – it really works.  The climatic end, by the way, was absolutely brilliant and a tremendous payoff for almost 1000 pages.   I was so impressed with the entire plot and the characters, I just don’t know how to adequately communicate that to you – so that you’ll immediately go out and buy all three books so Pierce can pay his mortgage and get back to writing more~~  Catherine Book

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