Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown
OMG. All the feels.
I hate ending series because I’m overcome with an emptiness, knowing there’s no more. And Morning Star was no different.
I discovered the Red Rising series last year on a lucky ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ whim, and fell in love with it immediately. It’s the story of a corrupt futuristic society, where people are born into a “color,” which is arranged in a hierarchal pyramid with Reds at the bottom and Golds at the top. Each color has a specific role in society; the Reds are the slave miners, the Golds the gods. Darrow is a Red in the mines of Mars and knows nothing of the world above him until his wife’s death sets off a chain of events that has him striving to “break the chains”. And break them he does.
The first book is about Darrow’s infiltration of the Gold society, a Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones style school where he learns combat techniques and how to be a leader. Golden Son, the second book, is when his arrogance gets the best of him, and his usage of his friends to further his own goals backfires. Morning Star, the finale, is about Darrow fighting back from the ashes of his mistakes to finally become a good leader.
The scale of the books keeps getting bigger: Red Rising is set in the Institute on Mars; Golden Son deals with Mars as a whole and the space around it; Morning Star goes from Earth’s Moon (Luna) to the moons of Saturn and is an all out war.
Unlike the typical dystopian trilogy, which tends to end in the rebellion turning into war, Brown explores the aftermath and effects of that war on the people and the places involved. Darrow is haunted by the “what happens after we win” question throughout, unsure what to do and how to be the leader the lowColors believe him to be. How to break the pyramid, the prejudices, the ingrained beliefs.
One of the strongest things about Morning Star isn’t the epic space battles – which are pretty epic indeed, always surprising me – but the side characters. While they’ve been developed over the previous two books to some degree, Morning Star really lets them shine. We see redemption, heartbreak, love, and strength, and each character holds their own. The women in particular have really grown and aren’t the foils they were in Red Rising, but become leaders and symbols of strength and intelligence.
While the first hundred pages or so were slow, bringing the reader and Darrow back into the world after a year’s absence (in both cases), the last 300 were tense, heartbreaking, and cathartic. The ending shocker caught me off guard, but it wasn’t hard to figure it out after that initial surprise, though it was still wonderfully executed and a smart move by Darrow and Brown.
Influenced by Shakespeare, Roman history, Star Wars, and Dune, among others, the Red Rising series is smart, dark, complex, and beautiful.
I love the growth of Darrow from a small Red to a humbled leader of no color, understanding what it means to be a leader, what it means to follow your heart, what it means to be a man.
Although it’s not perfect, I love this series with all my heart, and I’m sad to have to let it go. The great thing about books, however, is they’re always there for me to revisit, and I think I’ll be revisiting the world of Red Rising for some time to come.