This is it. The final book in the “Red Rising” trilogy. As such, it’ll be my shortest review because honestly, if you’ve read my review for the others and are bothering with this one… I don’t know why you are reading this if you HAVEN’T at least started the series yet. Either way, this is the final chapter, final straw, final act for Darrow as he goes about completing his mission of bringing equality and freedom to a society that feels both in the future and also back in time with its views. A bit like Star Wars really, but you know, without Jedi’s and the like.
This book starts up where we left off, with Darrow captured. We finally really see the depravity the Gold’s are capable of. It had always been implied before, you saw it through members of the Sons of Ares as they retold their own subjugation but mainly we saw it through how Golds treated other Golds in the academy which was never all that good to begin with. Now, they have broken Darrow and he has to be rebuilt, again, in order to finish the job he set out to do.
The story gets a bit repetitive in this. While Brown is amazing when it comes to putting a twist on the Roman culture and military tactics he’s borrowed so heavily from (and which this mythology geek always appreciated), he does tend to have the same instances repeat themselves. In every one of his books, Darrow goes through the hero’s journey each and every time. While his story is compelling and I adore Sevro as a character, it does make each book following the first a little slower for me to get through. They are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but with each book, it becomes just a bit less of a page turner.
Some of that comes with the “easy outs” Brown tends to give Darrow and how “soft” he makes Darrow at times. In the last book, Darrow forgets to tell us that he’s been training secretly with the best Gold warrior of their time. I understand why he did it, to illicit a feeling of surprise, but it still comes off as a bit of an unwelcome twist because it felt too convenient. That happens again in “Morning Star”. There is a moment where you believe so fully someone dies only to have it be all part of a plot twist. Which is fine except our narrator never hints that he has this plan, never even subtly shows us that this betrayal was all part of an act. Again, I know why he did it, but some hints about it would make the twist feel satisfying rather than overly convenient. Honestly, this is the most troublesome thing because it happens so often, even in the epilogue! I won’t lie, the epilogue made me roll my eyes a bit…
Also, Darrow also really, really loves his people. Which is awesome because a leader should love his people. But he loves them to the point in this last book where I am wondering if Darrow is bisexual or something. Which kudos if he is but I don’t really think he is. Which is why it felt a bit weird when he went on and on about how beautiful both the male and female Golds are. In addition, Darrow is broken so much mentally and generally does not feel as strong mentally as he once was. It shows that Darrow is changing and evolving which is great, but it does feel a bit as if he is mentally incapable of doing what’s necessary. He does them anyway so no big deal, but it felt a bit whiny at times.
My only other real “complaint”, if you can call it that, is with the villain. He always seems to be two steps ahead like he’s psychic into all of Darrow’s plans. No matter how clever Darrow and friends are, the jackal and crew are expecting exactly what they do. You can only chalk that up to spies so much to where it just feels unbelievable. The Jackal is formidable on his own but he felt too smart, too clever because he just seemed to know what Darrow and team planned for every mission save one or two. The Jackal is a scary bad guy all on his own, this seemed to lessen that in its mild un-believability.
All in all though, I am a big fan of this series and Brown as a writer. His research and the “colorful” characters he’s created are marvelous. I recommend this series to anyone who likes a sci-fi fantasy steeped in old Roman culture and who also enjoy a good YA series. Like the rest of his books, I’m giving it a solid 4 out of 5 stars and the series as a whole a 4.5. Definitely worth a read!