Red Rising by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love this book. Darrow fulfills some bad-ass anti-hero fantasy that I didn’t even know I had. Absolutely recommend.
I picked this up at the suggestion of my husband, and I am really impressed. When I read that it was “Harry Potter meets Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones” I was a little bit hesitant because it sounded like a had a lot of potential to be misery-porn.
The universe Brown creates feels somewhat contrived and too fantastical to exist at times, but he balances this out with human and relate-able characters. Where others lack a depth of motivation and complexity of being, Brown creates rich, believable and like-them-even-as-you-hate-them characters. Darrow often makes really stupid mistakes, but for very logical reasons. The good guys and the bad guys have layers of good and evil to them, and I got the point where I wasn’t sure who to cheer on. Darrow is what Harry Potter would have been if he’d been less emo.
Where many books in the YA genre (or on the fringe) rely on good-and-evil absolute tropes, Red Rising starts out with this simplistic view, but quickly sheds it in favor of a many shades of good and evil that left me supporting different sides, depending on the chapter.
While death is a frequent companion in the book, each death feels impactful and meaningful without straying into the Game of Thrones, “then everyone dies” trap. I felt each death acutely throughout the book, and they happened in such a way that the sting of the previous death had only just passed when another person died. I spent time on the edge of my seat terrified that this character or that character might die. It was exhausting and invigorating all at the same time.
This is a great read, and I can’t recommend it enough.