The Red Rising Saga, Book 3
DESCRIPTION: For centuries, humanity has been stratified into a hierarchy of Color, ruled over by the ruthless Golds, while lowColors like the Reds toil in slavery. It was supposed to be a triumph over eons of warfare, but only brought more depraved cruelty to the solar system. Six years ago, driven to rebellion by the betrayal of his people and murder of his visionary wife, Darrow began his quest to infiltrate and destroy the Golds, his Red body painfully Carved and transformed to become one of them as he entered their elite Institute... only what he found was far more complicated and dangerous than he could ever have imagined. Since then, he has gathered friends and enemies, risen through the Gold ranks and become entangled in their games, and started a rebellion that has spread across his homeworld - which is why he has been tortured and imprisoned for a year by his enemy, the ArchGovernor, Adrius au Augustus, better known as the Jackal of Mars. Rescued by his friend Sevro, who took up the mantle of the rebel warlord Ares, Darrow finds his faith in himself and his own rebellion shaken, but the people of the system still need a leader to break the bonds of the Gold rulers. For better or worse, war rages and blood is spilled. Can a broken Darrow snatch victory from the jaws of near-certain defeat?
REVIEW: The original Red Rising trilogy comes to a conclusion here; though the saga continues, Darrow's war reaches its climax in this book, with the fate of the entire solar system hanging in the balance. As harrowing as the first two books could be, this one tops them both.
Like the previous two volumes, Morning Star starts fast and only rarely slackens the pace, pages full of battles and blood-feuds and betrayals and troop movements across the vast reaches of space, all watered by oceans of blood and veritable mountains of casual cruelty - mostly by the Golds, but some by other Colors as well, products of a society that has gone out of its way to remove the humanity from the human race. It also - despite very brief recaps at the start of the book - doesn't pause to ensure the reader remembers all the names, family associations, and other entanglements that color Darrow's interactions and frequently endanger his plans and his life. I recalled the gist of things as I read, memory prompted by context, though I know I missed a fair bit of nuance by having not reread the previous books before starting this one. (In other words, do not think that you can come in on this series partway through.)
This is not a clean war on any side, with clear moral boundaries; though the Golds are inherently cruel, many of them are simply defending the only order they have ever known, entirely believing the lie that the Society they have built is inherently better and more peaceful than the old warlike ways of pre-Color Homo sapiens... and, for all the lofty aims of the rebellion, the Sons of Ares cannot win with clean hands, nor can they ensure that the world they aim to build will be free of the evils that plague the one they seek to destroy. Time and again, Darrow finds himself having to resort to underhanded tactics that cost loyal or innocent lives, all without knowing whether that cost will buy ultimate victory. These conflicts started nagging Darrow from the first book, when he got his first true taste of Gold society in the Institute of Mars, and have only grown more troubling as the rebellion grows from a simple idea to tangible action and widespread warfare, much of which is beyond his control. He must learn to embrace his own flaws and rise above them when possible... and learn to embrace and trust his friends, flaws and all. They the one true advantage he has over the Golds, who only rarely view others as anything but potential tools or rivals for personal advancement or glory, and they are the one true promise he can cling to when he strives to create something better, the notion that other people can and should matter as more than personal stepping-stones or obstacles.
It's an unrelentingly intense, blood-soaked story told on a grand - borderline grandiose - scale, with shades of ancient war epics in a far-future setting, wrapping up most of the threads from the previous books in a justly cataclysmic and well-earned conclusion.
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