4 out of 5 Golden Stars!
This is the 2nd book in the Red Rising Trilogy, so beware spoilers for the first book! There is a disturbing trend starting in recent series…. cliffhangers. I hate that. We know there is a 3rd book coming and instead of letting us have a nice victory or summation, we get what would better have been at the beginning of the next book. This enrages me. It seems cheap and tawdry. To get me to read the next book, make sure each book in and of itself is good. However, this book was amazing, though it had its flaws.
Our boy Darrow’s star has continued to rise. We meet him at the end of his academy training (I guess like college, whereas the Institute was high school). However, it then takes a dump. He is on the way out, and he has to do something desperate to regain his position among the golds. This is when he’s at his best and it seems he is always in this position, trying to claw his way out of some impossible situation. Despite his promise and talents, Augustus is about to sell him off, and the Bellona want his head. Darrow fears they will find a way to buy him and then kill him. So Darrow has to do something. Nothing short of civil war, getting Augustus to lust for a throne of his own, will work. The brutality and vengeance and death in this thing is heartbreaking. It is so tightly plotted and the twists, turns, betrayals and reveals come thick and heavy.
Basically, the pace is so fast I can hardly keep my breath or even remember what the hell happened, and I just read the last page. So much went on. One thing that bothered me is that people from the last book, who you don’t even remember and with no identifying clues or reminders, show up near the end of this one. I had to look up on the fancy xray of my kindle who they were. Some of the huge plot or action “reveals” are clunky and confusing: he uses lingo or names of things he hasn’t introduced yet. So when there is a reveal, rather than shock and awe, you shake your head going “what?” It takes a few minutes while he explains what the reveal was. I also wish there was more description of the tech because though you pretty much figure out what they do, there isn’t any description of what they look like, and sometimes even what they are for. These flaws stick out because there is no time to take a breath due to the fast pace. (and there is no oxygen in space! Get it? Space joke!)
Basically, Augustus’s power is on the wane. Even his kids, Mustang and the Jackal, have left his house. Mustang is with the Sovereign, Octavia au Lune, who is a tyrant and genius – also a master manipulator. She has a pet monster, Aja, who was trained by the same person who trained Darrow and she is truly terrifying. Nobody wants to touch her or go up against her, she’s like a terminator. There are some people who have problems with the female characters in this series. The Society doesn’t seem to hold women back from obtaining status or power, but slut culture and rape culture is totally a thing (in other words, as soon as a woman is opposed by the men or makes a mistake, it all comes down to what is between their legs.) Many of the women are monsters. I don’t blame them, what with the way the Society is. Monsters eat their young. I’d be one of those. But there are many heartless, cruel, manipulative, evil women who enjoy the havoc they wreak. I would point out the men are pretty much the same way. The Society seems to want them to love their families but thoroughly destroy their enemies. It’s kill or be killed, and when you are killed, you’re most likely going to be tortured and raped first, so. There’s that.
And Jackal. That guy is still weaving webs and pulling strings like a spider. I thought it was cool how the media was treated in this – it really said something about the dissemination of knowledge, true or false, was so powerful and relatable. Most sci fi pretend like things like social entertainment (like television and movies today and the way they know rely on social media) doesn’t exist. We see the people on Star Trek reading old Shakespeare or listening to classical music from our own past, but we don’t see them enjoying new games or works and things from their own times, but Brown incorporates the Golds and their decadent consumption of media a thing in the story. It’s very relevant.
Despite these frustrations, and the slight feeling at the end that what was comin’ was comin’ (I knew something bad was going to happen but not what exactly) the book is an amazing rip roaring ride of fun and excitement. If these books aren’t turned into movies, Hollywood should just fold up their tents and give over, to the music industry or something, because these would make such amazing movies….
When reading this, remember to stay hydrated, don’t forget to go in the sunshine, if you can, to keep your vitamin D up. These things are important.