Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Rating: ★★★★★

With Morning Star, Pierce Brown concludes his stunning trilogy that began with Red Rising and Golden Son.  Needless to say, you should read these books in order – they don’t work as standalone novels.  And you should read them – this is an excellent series that I’ve been recommending to lots of people.

I won’t post a synopsis of Morning Star, as it would provide spoilers for the first two novels, but to set the scene:

In Red Rising, we met Darrow – one of the Reds whose job it is to make Mars habitable for humans.  The mining they undertake is dangerous work and life expectancy is shockingly low, but the Reds deem it a worthy sacrifice – it’s for the good of the human race, after all.

But then Darrow discovers that it’s all a lie – Mars has been habitable, and inhabited, for years.  The Reds are just slave labour, mining elements for an elite caste of humans – the Golds.  And so Darrow, with the help of a shadowy organisation called the Sons of Ares, infiltrates the Golds in order to take them down from the inside.

This series has drawn comparisons with various other works of fiction, most notably The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.  I see the resemblance to these and other works – the caste system brought to my mind Huxley’s Brave New World, for example – and yet I think that this series is an original one, simply because of the way in which so many facets have been brought together.  The series is dystopian, but on an interplanetary scale.  There’s a level of political manoeuvring and backstabbing that George R. R. Martin might be impressed with.  At the same time, it’s a coming of age story and it tackles themes of suppression and racial discrimination.  There’s so much to these novels that it’s astounding to think that Red Rising was Brown’s début novel.

And Brown likes to throw curveballs almost constantly – just when you think you’ve worked out where the story is going, who can and can’t be trusted, something completely unexpected happens.  I had no idea how the story was going to end, and yet Brown does bring it to a satisfying conclusion, which I won’t spoil for you.

One thing I’ve liked about this series is how different each novel is.  Much of the action in Red Rising takes place at the Institute, where adolescent Golds (including Darrow) battle it out in brutal fashion in order to prove their worth (thus the comparison to The Hunger Games, although having not read those novels, it reminded me of Battle Royale).  Golden Son is much more politically charged, as Darrow and the Sons of Ares seek to manoeuvre into positions of power in order to bring down the regime.  Morning Star changes tack again, yet all three fit together to produce a stunning trilogy that is fast-paced and doesn’t let up for a second.

I liked Red Rising – but I loved Golden Son and Morning Star.  I think that Red Rising felt very much like a YA novel, whereas the second and third book will have a wider appeal.  That’s not to disparage Red Rising at all – I did enjoy it, but I felt that it was surpassed by the second the third books in the trilogy.

Morning Star was published today (11 February) in the UK – many thanks to Rebecca Mundy at Hodder and Stoughton for providing a copy for review.

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