Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Posted February 2, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 3 Comments

Red Rising

Red Rising

by Pierce Brown

Series: Red Rising #1
Publisher: Del Rey on January 28, 2014
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

The Earth is dying.

Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it.
The Reds are humanity's last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie.

That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds.

A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought. Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.

But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.

Break the chains.

Live for more.


Red Rising is positively fantastic.

This is one of those books with a lot of hype.  And you know, hype isn’t always trustworthy?  I’m so pleased to say that Red Rising is a solidly good book with an imaginative world, striking characters, and a whole lot of grit and spirit.

One of the foundations of a good science fiction novel is the science itself.  Pierce Brown did a great job at striking balance with this.  He didn’t over-explain scientific elements (that can be a sci-fi downfall), and he didn’t create anything too unreasonable.  The society in Red Rising felt distantly futuristic, but possible.  Some elements of old mythology had struck through the ages, for example the medical procedures far exceed what is currently available… bu still feeling probably centuries into the future.  It was well done, especially because YA science fiction is often either pretentious or gratuitous.

I liked Darrow immediately for his streak of arrogance as well as his passion.  He is a flawed protagonist, and things do not always go his way.  The most impressive protagonists are like this – their struggles help them grow in the story and in the reader’s hearts.  While Eo was not as notable to me as perhaps her legacy will prove, I did like other characters as the popped up.  In particular, I enjoyed Mustang and Roque.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of both of them in the ongoing series.

The plot kept me glued – the Institute was a little like The Poppy War, a little like the Harry Potter series, and written with the blunt rawness of the Dark Tower series.  I adored the aesthetics of it.  There’s a lot of gore in Red Rising – dismemberment, self-inflicted violence, rape for a start – and it’s important to know that going in.  Many things happen off-stage, but there are bloody moments in the immediate storyline as well.  None of the events were nonsensical – however brutal, each one held its purpose.  I was constantly concerned for the characters’ well-being.  Because this is a series, I knew Darrow would survive (although Brown got me concerned for a second at the beginning).  But sometimes, I worried I was wrong.  There’s a bit of drama, but if you’re looking for a high-action story about caste systems and war and infiltration of society… this is a good one.

Stylistically, this is a bit different than what many people are likely used to in sci-fi, especially YA sci-fi. Red Rising had a lot of action and world-building, and it’s structured in such a way that if it weren’t for the futuristic Mars setting, it would feel like high fantasy.  High fantasy is my jam – I love it.  But this will throw the unexpected reader.  There are some moments where the scenes drag a little, but these are often amidst a flurry of high action sequences, and I believe the slower moments are needed for balance.

Generally, I just devoured this.  I have a lot of feelings about the choices made, but all in good ways.  Red Rising pulled me in enough that I felt passionately about characters and the plot direction, and as far as I am concerned, those are the best sorts of books.

Also the narrator is fantastic as well, so if you’re considering an audiobook, I highly recommend it.  I had to speed it up to 1.5x for my personal tastes, but his voices and accents are great, and he holds your attention.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★


Have you ever jumped on a hype train 7 years after a book was released?  Yes, my loves, Red Rising came out in 2013!  I’m happy to be on the bandwagon now. 🙂 What books did you fall in love with waaaay after everyone else?  Let me know in the comments!

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3 responses to “Red Rising by Pierce Brown

  1. Awesome book! One of my favorites together with Diplomat of Uram and Steelheart! I enjoy Pierce Brown and Brandon Sanderson books so much.

    • Amber

      It really was so exciting and enjoyable to read. I haven’t read on in the series yet, but I intend to. I recommended it to my husband and he’s already finished the first trilogy, haha!

    • Keith Myers

      Just finishing Oathbringer, Book three in Sanderson’s series The Stormlight Archive. Having read up to book nine in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, I had to split off and see how I felt about this “Sanderson fellow” finishing my beloved series. Needless to say, I approve. Now I have to find something to keep me occupied while I wait for the release of book four, The Rhythm of War, on November 17th of this year (2020). All of which is mere filler to pass the time until Red Rising book six is ready to read! As we clearly have similar taste, I’ll be looking for Diplomat of Uram and Steelheart to hold me over till Pierce is finished with his next masterpiece. I honestly can’t remember ever having had more fun reading a book than I have reading Red Rising…