5/5 Stars (Red Rising), 4/5 Stars (Golden Son), 3/5 Stars (Morning Star)
A series that started off with a bang, then (for me) fizzled to a bit of a dull drone.
I'd heard so much about this series - countless people raving about it on Goodreads, various friends saying how much they'd enjoyed it... so I was excited to get stuck into it.
The first book, Red Rising, lived up to the hype.
I'll admit, when I started reading it, I groaned inwardly . I thought 'oh Lord, yet another fantasy / sci-fi book, which will no doubt leave me utterly confused by the end and completely disengaged to boot'.
However, my initial reservations were unfounded. What we have here is a cleverly crafted, powerfully plotted novel, which explores societal class issues, under the guise of future Mars colonisation.
Darrow, our leading man, is a Helldiver on Mars - of class 'red', which means the lowest of the low. He mines in dangerous conditions and works all hours for little reward, and thinks that's all his life ever will be; until his wife's political stand changes everything.
Events sweep him along, until he becomes an undercover 'gold' - one of Mars's elites, made to compete for the title of Primus. If he can snaffle the title, he's in a perfect position to cause seismic change and destroy his enemies... the problem is, can he achieve it (and does he want to)?
The plot is a real rip-roarer; a page-turner that keeps the reader hanging on; desperate to find out what will happen next.
True, it's not the most high-brow of books, but that really doesn't matter. It was a gripping, exciting read, with some richly imagined characters and landscapes, not to mention some intriguing conundrums about roles in society.
Golden Son wasn't quite as engrossing as the first, but was an imaginative, enjoyable plot nonetheless. For the most part, my lofty expectations were met, with a few minor exceptions.
This book focuses largely on Darrow's fall from grace and his struggle to stay alive, plus his uprising against the sovereign, Octavia. There are plenty of epic characters here (I particularly love Mustang - she's a refreshingly no-nonsense heroine!), and lots of action, though in my opinion, perhaps a few too many battles, which seemed to bog up the plot a little. In terms of twists and turns, there are a few major revelations, which I certainly won't spoil for you, and this alone was enough to keep me turning the pages.
Unfortunately, by the time I'd got to Morning Star, my interest was already waning badly. I hate to say it, when I got to the end of this one, I was fully ready to finish. However, I should clarify that I'm making this judgement based on all the hype. Because so many people had loved it, I thought I'd be totally sold on it too - so perhaps I am being a little harsh (if so, my apologies to the author!).
I just felt it was even more formulaic than the second. E.g. Darrow gets into a scrape / situation, someone dies or betrays him, then he escapes. Then Darrow gets into another scrape / situation, someone else dies or betrays him, and he escapes again.
There were some great moments though. Cassius' betrayal (and subsequent shock move, which I won't spoil for you) was compelling reading, and I felt myself sucked right back into the novel at that point. Ragnar also pulled me back in - mainly because he was one of my favourite characters in the second, and even more likeable in this book.
To anyone out there reading this review and considering the series, it's probably best to ignore me, as I think I'm massively in the minority here - most people loved it. It's just one of those things...something didn't quite 'click' for me!