I read this book two years ago, and was so addicted I made my husband get the audiobooks, and then he found it irresistible too. I can’t say enough how much I LOVED this series! Only, it’s actually kind of hard to write a blog post from an audiobook because there’s not really a way for me to document my notes in the car. (If you suggest voice to text, I tried this. It’s full of things like, “Darrow is rescued by his uncle narrow and a band of rubbles” and “hang hang out wanting”.) Anyway, here’s my inadequate review to the unforgettable drug that is Red Rising.
Deep in the crust of Mars, young Red Helldiver Darrow and his Lambda clan mine for helium-3 to fuel their planet. Just as Darrow believes he’s won the laurel, the award for the most helium-3, and by consequence more food and supplies for his clan, they are denied the laurel–a show that the Golds in power do not play fair but also do not care. His young wife, Eo, convinces him to celebrate anyway, saying she has a surprise for him. Eo leads him to a forest on the surface which is forbidden. When they are caught, Darrow and Eo are both whipped, but when Eo receives her punishment, she sings a song that inspires rebellion and, more dangerously, hope.
Darrow wants to die with her, but instead he is rescued by his Uncle Nerol and a band of rebels known as the Sons of Ares (pronounced “Air-ees”). With the Sons, Darrow is tested and transformed from a Red into a Gold, the highest rank in society. He has been taught, trained, and practically tortured and only survives because of a pit viper bite when he was younger. Once his transformation is thorough, he applies for the Institute, a school for elite Golds who, if they pass, become the Peerless Scarred and lead fleets of ships. Though the test is extremely hard, Darrow achieves a near perfect sore, missing only one question, highly rare among the thousands of Golds that take the exam. Once in the Institute, the students are each chosen by houses. Darrow is chosen by the House of Mars, and these gifted Gold children are forced to endure the Passage, when all initiates are put into rooms two apiece and made to see who will survive. Darrow must choose between life and furthering rebellion and killing his new friend’s twin brother or death and the death of his wife’s sacrifice.
Next comes the true test of the Institute, who will learn the skills of conquest that are so honored in Gold history and thereby preserve their society? It is one giant war. As Golds are turned into lowColors and forced to compete for supplies, food, shelter, allies. A battle of houses against houses. A battle of survival. And Darrow must win it all or see his wife’s dream turned to ash.
Darrow is a realistic hero. It’s easy to live inside his head and feel sympathy for him. However, it’s hard to predict his choices. This combined with the rich worldbuilding and other larger-than-life characters, makes for an utterly compelling, grisly, yet poetic tale of adventure, love, loyalty, and war. I still can’t find the words for loving such a crass and untouchable character as Sevro, and Mustang is simply the best noble heroine. She’s my inspiration, and I always want to understand her more, get in her head. I also love Pax, Mustang’s right hand man, and am devastated every time I read this book. Though I’ve read the trilogy (not the beginning of the new series yet!), this one is always my most favorite, possibly because it really is a giant RISK game and it is unfathomable to me how Darrow does it every time. This would be an epic film, the image of Mustang at the end with the Jackal? Priceless.
Teens who loved The Hunger Games can pick up this next logical young adult step and be even more hooked. Bloodydamn, is it GOOD!
Note: Sometimes this is considered YA, but mostly it is adult.