Here’s my review of the latest book in the Red Rising series over at Tynga’s Reviews!
Here’s my review of the latest book in the Red Rising series over at Tynga’s Reviews!
This week I’m covering the second in the Red Rising series, Golden Son, over at Tynga’s Reviews to present a new review of this highly addictive book.
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.
Fans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian YA will quickly be sucked into this stand-alone tale.
Once Aya was living in the Frontier with her unconventional family, including two young children she was charged with protecting, trying to make ends meet, but she has been captured and now lives in a slave pen, awaiting some man to make a purchase for her at market. In her society, a potential future of our own, all women are property: sold, abused, used for children, and killed or pushed aside when considered useless. Children are means to an end, and religion and prayer is banned. Also, any girl who is a virgin and gives up her virginity before being sold (even if the man buying her asks her to do it) is punished to live as a Virulent, the lowest caste of society that is visibly marked and usually ripe with disease. Aya tries to do anything to avoid being sold. She starts fights, gets sick, tries to escape, and usually she is punished by being unsuitable for market and sent to live in solitary confinement. In her brief exile, she makes a friend or two: Brax, a wolf puppy she saved, who keeps her warm at night, and a Driver boy, whom she calls Kiran, who is mute but eventually companionable. Then, she runs out of chances. Finally up for sale, Aya (her slave name is Clover) tries to be as repulsive as possible, which backfires. The mayor of Glasscaster buys her for his son, and Aya is slave to a young boy. Thinking she has lost all chance of escape, she is unexpectedly saved when Kiran pretends to be the mayor’s brother and helps her back into the Frontier. Aya’s only thought is to find her family, but a series of surprises leave her questioning her familial ties, her beliefs, and her future.
The Glass Arrow has been called a modern YA retelling of The Handmaid’s Tale and Aya has been drawing parallels to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. (Actually, I thought it was going to be more like THG and Katniss than it was, so I was very pleasantly surprised by this.) However, it is not for the sheltered reader. It is designed to open eyes. To make the reader think about women, their vulnerabilities, the patriarchal society and how it can degrade into this view, which is very similar to some countries in the world. It is an emotionally difficult read (not inappropriate by any means), but will make you uncomfortable and expose you, if you weren’t already aware, to ideas about sexism and potential abuse of females.
Now the good parts! Aya herself is a strong character, inviting the Katniss comparison, and does much to shelter those around her, like the children, from the brutality of their world. Kiran is the best possible sort of boy, and Aya comes to realize this, discovering that she demonized most men in retaliation to the stereotypical treatment of her (and females in general). Kiran changes her mind, and Aya learns that despite society’s view, she and he can love honestly, honorably, and truly appreciate each other. Brax is both comfort and comic relief from the horrible situation, and the ending is satisfying, though I won’t spoil it here. Take a chance to read something that isn’t just a happy story, for it’s in these that you learn the most about yourself, how you think, and how you might need to change…
*Note: Middle grade readers may not be emotionally ready to read/discuss amount of sexual connotation and possibility of sexual abuse in this book.
P.S. Found it noted on Kristen Simmon’s website that she is working on a book called Metaltown for 2016. Unknown whether this is a sequel (though doubtful) or unrelated. Go there for more articles and bonus stories from The Glass Arrow!
An inspiring tale of a young woman, oppressed and hunted by an over-zealous abstemious anti-feminist dystopian regime, becomes the face and weapon to bring about its destruction.
In the near distant future, a dystopian United States is governed by a new set of rules, the Moral Statues, with lawbreakers arrested, sent to trial and possibly death rather than simply fined. It is this United States that is seventeen-year-old Ember Miller’s reality. Under Article 5, the law against children conceived out of wedlock, she and her mother have just been arrested, and one of the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR) soldiers is her former flame, Chase Jennings. Heartbroken and separated from her mother, Ember is sent to a girl’s reform camp since she is still a minor. This reform camp is run by the Sisters of Salvation, an all-female religious-minded cult that sits at the right hand of the FBR. The Sisters teach and enforce that women are under the authority of men and that children should obey. Determined to find her mom and save her from death, Ember plots to leave the reform camp and blackmails her roommate, Rebecca, and her secret guard boyfriend to do it. Ember doesn’t succeed and is about to be tortured when Chase shows up to take her to trial but is secretly rescuing her. While Ember tries to figure out Chase and his motivations, they are also trying to find a safe contact in South Carolina, one who may have saved Ember’s mom. However, as fugitives from the government, they can be arrested and tortured, especially Chase as a military deserter. It’s survive or die…
Note on the religious aspects: Though it resembles some religions here, it makes an effort to cross the line into grossly unacceptable treatment–with severe physical and emotional abuse (or death) as the frequent punishments for infractions–a more brutal and oppressive fanatic version. Think puritan mixed with the intolerance of Queen Mary I’s reign. An absolute rule for the marriage of church and state.
As Ember and Chase were captured once more at the close of the first book and they faked their deaths in escaping, they attempt to hide underground because of their high-profile status. Instead, they are absorbed into the Resistance, a well-organized group of rebels trying to overthrow the government. When news of Ember’s escape finally gets leaked, she is also the prime suspect for a serial sniper who has been picking off soldiers. Ember, incapable of sniper skills, must come to terms with her new reputation and what it means for their joining the Resistance. Should Ember keep hiding for fear of being shot on sight, or is this finally the time to fight back? When the Resistance comes under attack, Ember and Chase are pushed to the forefront of leadership and must navigate their changing relationship in the face of imminent disaster.
Ember and Chase are tired of running. Their journey has been leading up to this point, to finding the safe house, but their only hope is in ruins. As they navigate the wild with a small band of followers and just when they seem the most defeated, they discover the clandestine leader sect of the Resistance known as Three. Thinking this is what they’ve been searching for all along, Ember is disappointed to find yet another secretive and, she suspects, misguided group focused on achieving a means to an end despite the lives damaged. Deciding she is unwilling to morally compromise herself despite the cost, Ember must sacrifice everything she holds most dear to force the FBR to its knees and usher in a new dawn. An action packed finale that will leave you feverishly devouring to find out whether there can be any sort of happy ending for characters you’ve come to love.
Note: Violence and minor sexual references.
One of the greatest assets to this series is the characters. They are real, believable, and act in convincing ways. Despite Ember’s great trust in Chase before he was a soldier, we face uncertainty about his true motives. With Tucker, we are pretty certain he is a villain, but then he is suddenly trying to become a rebel. His wavering stance between betrayer and savior and the cost of his actions flesh out a boy whom you are hard pressed to keep a grudge against, as Ember comes to realize. Another very cool thing about this series is that there is no set locale for all the action. They visit Knoxville, Chicago, South Carolina, Charlotte, Virginia…really makes you believe you can almost look up and see the setting around you. Solid read, and I can’t wait to read her next book The Glass Arrow! (For a sneak peek at the bones of the next book, check out this article!)