Back around the time I read and reviewed Red Queen, there had been some controversy over similarities with another young adult book- Red Rising. Both novels are based on the premise of future societies separated by color and status, have young adult heroes/heroins rising above their lot in life, and have some odd love triangles.
On one of our regular bookstore adventures, my husband randomly pulled a copy off the shelf and added it to his pile of acquisitions. To say the least, I stole it from him out of curiosity to see what all the fuss was about.
“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish this book when I first started reading it. Red Rising is written in in present tense (which I’m not a huge fan of) from the point of view of Darrow, a reckless 16 year old boy who happens to be married to the love of his life. That bit threw me off a bit, since I expected a married “man” to be a bit older an more mature. But Darrow is more concerned with showing off, almost killing himself and risking the lives of his whole crew while on a digging expedition far below the Mars surface. Darrow is self-assured in the belief that he is risking his life for the good of the entire human race in their quest to terraform Mars.
That is, until the Golds- society’s high ruling class- punish Darrow and his wife for insubordination. Darrow learns that the Mars surface has actually been inhabited for centuries, though his family still lives as slaves under the ground. He is forced to face this injustice head on, undergoing a grisly transformation to impersonate a Gold in an attempt to break the chains imprisoning his family and destroy their Gold enforcers. Darrow’s growth as a character is extraordinary- using both technology to transform his body and extensive training to expand his mind. Once entrenched within Gold society at the Institute, he continues to rise beyond expectations, using strategy and a genuine heart (something not often seen among Golds) to gain the trust and friendship of his greatest enemies.
The settings and characters in this novel were amazing. Pierce creates vibrant imagery in his comparisons of the dark drudgery of the dim and dirty Red underworld versus the technologically advanced and colorful surface. The Institute is unlike any typical school, using castles and large tracts of territory to teach Gold students about hunger, warfare, loyalty, and death. The strategic planning and guerrilla warfare tactics kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the book’s stunning conclusion. Although this is a young adult novel, there are several very violent deaths, instances of rape, and strong language- so be warned.
I would highly recommend Red Rising with 4 out of 5 stars. This was a wonderfully action packed young adult novel, great for anyone looking for an exciting and relatively easy read.