Morning Star | Pierce Brown | 2016 | Hodder & Stoughton | 524p | Review copy | Buy the book
Morning Star brings to a conclusion Pierce Brown’s majestic Red Rising trilogy – the story of Darrow, a young man who slaved in the mines below the surface of Mars, one of so many who believed he was working towards making the planet habitable for all mankind, not knowing that it was already safe and marvellous. Mars was but one of many colonies in the solar system controlled by a golden race of men and women who lived off the slavery of billions. But Darrow has a destiny he cannot defy. He is to become a Gold, he will be transformed into the Reaper, destroying from within. The Red will rise and the Gold will fall. And so began Red Rising, the first in the trilogy that now must end.
If you haven’t read Red Rising or Golden Son then you most certainly won’t want to start with Morning Star. So, as I want to give nothing away about the plot of Morning Star, instead I’ll say a little about the trilogy as a whole and why it is worth your time.
Golden Son, the middle book, was a revelation to me. I liked Red Rising but I didn’t feel the deep love that many shared. For me, it reminded me too much of the themes and ideas of Hunger Games and I wasn’t a great lover of the Academy setting. But I was looking forward to Golden Son nonetheless and it quite simply blew me away. This book was on a whole new level entirely. Removed from the Academy setting and put into a magnificent and immense arena of war and vengeance, covering great swathes of space, Darrow came into his own as a spectacular leader. While the first novel felt comfortably aimed at younger readers, Golden Son did no such thing. This was a book for every one. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book so intense and exhausting. Every page was filled, not a line wasted. And its conclusion, when it came, left me in shock! Such is the power of the best of books.
I can’t imagine how much pressure Pierce Brown must have felt in having to follow Golden Son. But he is to be congratulated. Throughout these books, Darrow’s friendships and relationships have shifted continually. Where once was love there is now hatred, and vice versa. This is a world immersed in deep emotional turmoil and Brown does a superb job of passing this on to the reader. It is complicated. I did have trouble remembering the history of some of these friendships. But it did make me think back to the old days of Red Rising when life was lethal for Darrow but yet in many ways it was so much simpler.
The society of Golds in particular is brilliantly created. They are glorious beings and even though they are the obvious enemy throughout the trilogy there is such a nobility about them that co-exists alongside their cruelty to the races they suppress – as well as to each other. A Gold without scars is no Gold at all. They are martial to the core, Roman in so many ways, and Greek gods to those they enslave. Pierce Brown allows us to care for Gold individuals. It’s not just a simple matter of good versus evil. Darrow comes to know this so well when he has to take decisions that will have devastating repercussions for the souls who follow him. I love the complex structure of this civilisation with people divided into tribes of colours, each with their own conventions and codes of behaviour. And in Morning Star we meet another race, one that inhabits the coldest and harshest of environments, and they bring a whole new layer of myth and history to this incredibly rich universe that Pierce Brown has created and populated.
Above all else, Golden Son and Morning Star resonate with Pierce Brown’s truly remarkable prose. At times, it is majestic, stirring the blood with its passion and power. Darrow is a great leader, an inspiration to millions, and he is given the language to prove it. The battle and fighting sequences are intense but so too are the moments of quiet, love or grief. In this world not everyone can survive and we’re made to share in the pain of that.
Morning Star didn’t quite match Golden Son for me. I think that would be an impossible task because I found Golden Son nigh on perfect. Nevertheless, Morning Star is fabulous and provides a worthy conclusion to the story of Darrow, one of the most memorable, fascinating, complex, flawed, brilliant heroes I’ve met. This is not a light read. Its intensity is exhausting. But above all else, Morning Star, and the trilogy it concludes, is heroic, it is epic, it is magnificent.