Three years. Three books. Over 1200 pages. The Red Rising trilogy has been a big part of my life over the past few years. Red Rising was one of the first books I got sent to review as a book blogger and I was invited down to London and got to meet Pierce Brown in February. Beware of slight spoilers in this not completely positive series review…
My original review for Red Rising is here and my original Golden Son review is here with re-read reviews for both books here. And my Morning Son review is here. Phew! Now that’s out of the way.
Here’s the thing I’ve discovered about re-reads; sometimes when you get past the immediacy of how exciting a book is, what’s left is perhaps not what you remember. It’s like watching a movie for the second time and picking up all the little hints that were there all along. It can be good. It can be bad.
For the Red Rising trilogy, a lot of things were hidden under the excitement that were actually pretty questionable. It makes me sad that even fictionally 700+ years in the future, a woman is still a ‘bitch’ by acting exactly the same as a man. That the word ‘Queer’ is thrown around like it doesn’t have a huge amount of history. That being gay or acting effeminate is grounds for being insulted or discredited. That ‘they howl like mentals’ was ever written and isn’t alone in the use of being ‘mad’ to invalidate.
Yes, the world is obviously a bad one and the class system is the big bad guy that the protagonist is fighting. But there were other things, things that weren’t questioned, or were part of the narration that made my stomach twist. Luckily it petered out as the series went on but it did sour the experience for me when I re-visited the world. Hopefully they’ll not feature in the movies at all.
On the other hand, the way the Sons of Ares planned to bring down the class system was great. A lot of series like this take the bad guys head on, openly going to battle, whereas in this the protagonist goes deep into the world of the Golds to bring them down from the inside. Admittedly, this all goes to hell at the end of book two and I think it would’ve been more unique if it hadn’t, but it was a good thought.
Overall, if you’re a fan of worlds with districts, fractions or any manner of class systems then this might be for you. If you like YA dystopians but feel they’d be better with more gratuitous violence, it might be for you. But if you prefer your books with a better gender balance and fewer negative connotations around mental illness then maybe look somewhere else.