REVIEW: Red Rising

Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
rrsg Book title Red Rising
Series Red RisingΒ #1
Author Pierce Brown
Pages 382
Year published 2014

Official Summary

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

Red Rising is a difficult book to review for me. The main reason is because I feel that this book deserved a higher rating than what I’ve given. But I can’t. The portrayal of social injustice, the great worldbuilding, that’s all to be applauded. And I do applaud Brown. However, I have some issues with the book that I cannot turn a blind eye to. Let’s talk about the good and the not-so-good.

The Great Parts

Portrayal of dystopian society

There are books that claimed to be dystopian. Then there’s Red Rising.

In Red Rising, the society is divided into colors, led by the Golds, then there are the Grey, Obsidian, Green, Pink, and others. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the Reds.

When we first met Darrow, he was a Red miner in Mars, living below ground, never saw the sunlight, working his ass off to some noble goals for humanity. Then through some twists, he finally saw the world for the first time. Let me just say this. That scene when Darrow looks outside the window and see the reality, I want to weep with him. The injustice of it all will get you to rage with him.

World building and plot

Brown builds us three worlds. THREE. One is the mine, second is the Golds world, third is the Institute. It was a wonder how one can successfully build so many worlds in a 350+ pages book. But he did it.
Again, he showed us the contrast between the dark and gloomy reds world and the hi-tech, colorful golds world.

Then, there’s the Institute. At this point, the comparison to The Hunger Games is unavoidable. The students battle to get the title of Primus, a title promising them a great career path. Oops, I mean, glory and fame. However, unlike THG where the spotlight is on Katniss and her internal struggles and how she tried to best everyone, in Red Rising, there is more focus on Darrow interaction with other students, how he strived to win their respects and fears.

By the way, if you ever read that Red Queen is similar to this book, you should know that the only similarity is that they both used colors to describe the different societies.

Parts I didn’t like

Right, let’s undermine my own rating.


Here’s my main problem. It is hard to enjoy a book if you don’t like the protagonist. In that sense, Pierce Brown actually succeeded. I did enjoy Red Rising despite not liking Darrow.

Darrow. He is just too perfect. His only physical weaknesses are that he’s not as handsome as another student named Cassius and something about his teeth. He’s strong, fast, and also extremely clever. Oh sure, he’s impulsive and full of rage. Why do authors always set their MC’s weakness as rage. Why can’t it be procrastination or being indecisive or disorganized. I’ll still give credits to Brown for not turning Darrow’s impulsiveness into something that actually benefits him because I saw it happened so many times.

Back to his near perfection. It’s not that he never make any mistake, but the fact that he is so much better than everyone else. Even when he made mistakes, he handled them perfectly. And when he fell into a trap, things always went the way he needed to. He outskilled and outsmarted everyone. And that brings us to point #2.

The enemies

His enemies are laughable. They’re not a match to Darrow. These people are supposed to be the peerless scarred – the best of Golds – with years and years of training, but Darrow and his team managed to disarm all of them within 8 pages. Five highly skilled golds in 8 pages. And Darrow managed to defeat a couple of them single-handedly. And then there’s this bad guy who was supposed to be evil, but… I just can’t. I read hundreds of pages anticipating the climax that didn’t deliver.


Red Rising is a book that deserved to be applauded for its portrayal of social injustice. Brown managed to offer us a realistic portrayal in a fantasy settings. The book is well-paced and filled with just enough twist to goad you to keep reading. I have some issues with the characters, both MC and the bad guys, but they didn’t stop me from reading this great book.

Final Score

3.5 stars

Let me know, have you read Red Rising? Is it on your TBR? What do you think is the strength/weakness of the book? Feel free to agree or disagree with the points I raised.

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11 thoughts on “REVIEW: Red Rising

  1. This is indeed a fabulous review of Red Rising! I am so glad I read this, before jumping into it. I am still immensely excited to hopefully SOON, read this book, because of course, all the positive points you pointed out are making me so excited, but I’m glad to get a little bit of perspective on the characters. I think it’s so easy to fall into the perfect-protagonist trap and the bad-guys-who-aren’t-even-a-match-for-protagonist trap, because authors are focussing so much on their protagonist. Even I struggle with my current novel in progress! 😊

    1. Thank you Josie!
      I actually didn’t want to be so harsh on Darrow because he has his heart in the right place, but I couldn’t connect with him because he seems so superior to everyone. Regarding the bad guys, I just felt there was an inconsistency between my expectation based on the description and what actually happened when they encountered Darrow. Despite my criticism, I really enjoyed the book. Haha.

      YAAS, read the book. I’d like to know your opinion about Red Rising. πŸ™‚

    1. Honestly, I wish I liked him more. He has some qualities that I like and his loyalty sort of redeem him, but I felt he was just too god-like.

      And here I thought I was the only who felt that Kvothe is too dangerously close to being a perfect male specimen. lol. I have a rough draft of NoTW review from 2 months ago that I haven’t posted (oops) in which I mentioned similar problem. And NoTW is a looong book to read if one cannot connect to the protagonist. xD

      1. Hope you like the second book more if you decide to read it!

        Yeah, I purposefully waited for a time when I would have a significant amount of free time to read The Name of the Wind. While I liked it, I think the ease at which everything seemed to come to Kvothe is part of why I wasn’t completely engrossed in the story. I didn’t mind the length because its one of the rare times when I don’t have much else to do besides read, but if I had read this book during a busier time I may have struggled to finish.

        1. I am still excited for Golden Son! The reviews for the 2nd book is almost unanimously positive. Of course it might be because people who don’t like the first book didn’t bother with it but still it means it doesn’t suffer the second book syndrome.

          Yes you’re right. It’s not the literal length of the book so much as feeling detached from the story that made the book seems longer than it was. I heard The Wise Man’s Fear is much longer, still on the fence whether I should read it or not.

          1. Yeah, I personally loved the second book. It’s probably one of my favorite books this year. It’s very different from the first book.

            I probably won’t read Wise Man’s Fear any time soon, but I may eventually.

  2. Love your honest review, Windie! I heard this book to be the “Better Red Queen” but I’m sick of stories having characters without flaw. It’s just so unrealistic. I have to try this book though for its promise of deep social meaning as what you and many others said in their review. πŸ˜€

    1. Thank you Trisha. πŸ™‚
      Well, I do like it better than Red Queen, but really they’re not that similar apart from the usage of colors and arena battle.

      I know right. I don’t like it when the protagonist had it too easy (I’m a cruel person ;p).
      This book has so many 5-starred reviews though, so you might want to consider those too.
      YES, give it a try. πŸ˜€ I hope you enjoy it. I’m curious to read your opinion because I was so conflicted when I rated this book.

  3. Great review Windie! I loved this book a lot, but I’m a sucker for its themes so I think, out of love, I turned a blind eye to its flaws.

    I completely understand your points about Darrow. Interestingly, I didn’t really see him as a character; I just saw him as a vessel of the greater themes and ideas of this book. Which is weird, because I don’t like characters that have no essence, but I think Red Rising and Darrow was just one of those rare exceptions.

    I’ve heard that Golden Sun is better, so I’m looking forward to it! Hopefully it’ll be better than Red Rising?

    1. Thank you CW!
      Oooh, I do that too so many times. I think it’s totally understandable.
      Darrow is the perfect vessel, now that you mention it. I think that from that point of view, Pierce Brown did an amazing job.

      I am still excited for Golden Sun. Almost all of the reviews are positives, so I really hope it’s even better than Red Rising. πŸ™‚

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