Darrow, once a Red destined for a life mining Mars now transformed by rebels Sons of Ares into a ruling gold beat the training school in the last book, and is now in the middle of Gold society. But plots and factions stir constantly, and Darrow soon finds himself losing – until he wrests power and influence through unconventional methods. With enemies, schemes, greed and jealousy on every side Darrow feels he can trust no one and continues his campaign of violence, facing the monarch and everyone in his lonely quest for justice.
Oh my goodness! I’ve been waiting to read this ever since I finished Red Rising (my teenage sister read it too – here’s her review). And what a whirlwind it was! I can’t believe how much action and drama was packed into just one book! Though this is very much the same as the first instalment, I felt a bit that the reflection and character development was tacked onto the very full plot, which basically had a LOT of ground to cover. I came out at the end feeling as though I’d been on a really intense rollercoaster and needed a bit of time to settle. But it’s exciting, compelling and a worthy next step along the road for our hero.
The main lesson Darrow is learning through this book is about friendship and the need for friends. This is obviously a big challenge for him: he has intercepted the Gold ruling class and is surrounded by Golds. In the first book he is amazed to find that he does actually like some of them, but there are huge barriers in the way to his being able to be fully truthful with them. To many of them, his endless violent campaigns that keep getting people killed look like power play when really they are a battle for justice.
But nevertheless, he must learn to trust. This point about friendship seems a bit over-laboured at points; and Darrow rather stupid for not seeing it himself (‘You should really repair that friendship Darrow’ x10 ‘Oh I will, like, soon’). And though he does learn his lesson eventually, it costs him dear.
This isolation of Darrow does mean the narrative seems very very focussed on him. Sure, that’s the way the narrative voice works here, but we see so little of the other characters that I didn’t really felt I knew them. In the first book we got to know people quite well, but this book relied on that largely without reestablishing them, even though a significant time had passed since the first book and not a few changes. Particularly for me having read the first instalment a while ago, I felt I didn’t know the other characters very well. One very central character in particular I had no recollection of at all, which made his central role in this book a bit confusing. I missed them, and the complete focus on Darrow was a bit claustrophobic.
And so I definitely should have read the other book again first. But it’s with my sister still, and really I think you shouldn’t have to. But I missed other things here, too. In the first book, I had a deep and full sense of the injustice and evil that is inherent in the order of society in the world. I was still reeling from the death of Darrow’s wife. But here, though Darrow did reflect on it quite a bit, it was treated as a known fact, rather than proved to us at all. I think I would have liked Darrow to have a bit more trouble with his role as a Red, or there to be a particular indecent that reminds us just how insidious the evil society is.
But perhaps Darrow wouldn’t be Darrow if he had to think about it more. And most of his time is spent working out who on earth he can trust, which often seems to be the people you would not have thought.
And he has very little time to think. In my review of Red Rising I mentioned my concern at how on earth this story would scale up: would go from Darrow defeating the system at his school to taking on the whole system across a whole galaxy. This is where Brown really goes for it. I can’t believe the busyness and the pace at which Darrow attacks the whole of everything. And largely succeeds. Whilst reading it, it seemed just about plausible: the idea at the heart of it being that because Darrow is a Red he fights differently to the Golds and their ideas of honour and glory. Looking back, I can hardly believe he achieved that much in just one book. Probably I should have stuck to the world rather than questioning it.
At the end of the book, a lot of these tensions I have mentioned start to resolve, and it is done well. But after such a long time of them it feels a little late.
I’m still glad to have read this book, and am grateful to Social Book Co, a website that do a price comparison on book prices, to have sending it to me. And I think that probably, out of curiosity, I will read the third and final (surely) instalment when it appears. To people who really like this type of book; the dystopias, the drama: you’ll love it, read it. If you just dabble, probably not.