Red Rising: Review

January 2, 2014 4 star books, crossover adult title, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, Kim, male narrator, mature themes, sci fi or futuristic, Uncategorized 64 ★★★★

Red Rising: ReviewRed Rising by pierce brown
Published by Random House on January 28, 2014
Genres: science fiction
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Oh, Red Rising. Where do I even start with you? There were many “What in the world?!?” moments throughout this reading (that’s a good thing). This is essentially “Dystopian, eugenic, Capture the Flag on Mars”. For real.

I did a lot of creepy, evil smiling throughout. What can I say? This book served to further chill the cockles of my cold, dark heart, and I just loved it for that. This is a story for readers who, like me, are fascinated by these questions:

  • What happens when your enemy becomes your friend?
  • What happens when you become your enemy?

I’ve kept this as free of plot points as possible. The less you know about what is going on and what is going to happen the better. I wouldn’t want to deny you a single one of those jaw dropping moments.

I am absolutely horrified by the world of Red Rising which, to me, is always a sign that you’re doing dystopian right. Darrow is a Red, as low as low can be. His entire life has also been a lie. His journey to truth, transformation, and rebellion are kicked off by a series of tragic events that are sure to touch your heart and set your desire for vengeance burning.

You learn about The Society as Darrow does, and I really enjoyed the exposition part of the story where we learn more about other colors and their roles. There are a lot of disturbing elements to The Society, but I was particularly horrified and moved by the Pinks, the pleasure caste. We don’t see much of them in this book but what is seen is just so sad. It made my heart hurt. I shudder forever at the thought of being born into a life of what is essentially sexual slavery. I’d love to see more of the Pinks in future volumes, and I want retribution for them badly.

One of Red Rising‘s strengths lies in its strong cast of characters. Darrow is a lead with whom it is easy to sympathize. He’s not had an easy life but does have a strong heart (literally) and the courage and conviction to persevere. Interestingly, it is apparent from the beginning of the book that his wife is the “stronger” and more courageous of the two and it is her courage and strength that really supplies Darrow with his.

From reading the description you can see that it’s easy to root for Darrow, but he’s not perfect which is important to me. Darrow makes awful mistakes and some downright wrong moral decisions. But his heart is so good that you’re left with a yearning for him to learn from them and do the right things in the future rather than dislike the character.

There are side characters to cheer, to loathe, to love, and to fear. All of the secondary characters feel fully realized and three dimensional. It is so refreshing that many of them are girls and women. From what I’ve seen it appears that The Society is fairly gender equal. There are ample mentions of women in positions of power throughout the book. I am always so pleased with female characters who are allowed to be as flawed and complex as their male counterparts.

There are many surprising and shocking moments. Some are of the “wtf” variety. Some are of the tearjerking variety. All evoke strong emotion. There are scenes that left me with my jaw hanging wide open saying, “No. Way.” out loud. There are moments that had me practically reaching into my Kindle screen, whispering “Nooooooooo” as my heart crumpled. There will be tears I am telling you.

Do note that this is not Young Adult. The protagonist’s age brings crossover appeal, but this is a story with adult themes and content. This book does not shy away from displaying the brutalities of a ruthless society and the wars it wreaks not only on the lower castes, but on itself. It does not belittle the effects. There is no romanticization of violence and assault. Both are portrayed honestly and soberly. In many ways, this is a real and raw portrait of the consequences of war.

I am a total sucker, though, for some good old fashioned viciousness. I hope the following examples can help you decide whether or not this book is for you. There is a point where a character is noted to have strings of human teeth clinking in her hair. I literally cackled and said, “Ohhh the depravity” in a most gleeful tone. Later on a character talks of putting a dagger to throat and “carving a hole until the spine shows.” Again, I cackled in delight. What on earth is wrong with me?! I loved it since I am obviously a twisted sister. Your mileage may vary.

Also of note, there is very minimal romance. You should know that I am a huge fan of romance in my genre fiction. Some people prefer their romance in the backseat. I say put it in the front seat. Let it drive the car! It’s rather rare that I really like a book that doesn’t have a strong romantic component. So, for me to like this with its bare bones romantic aspect is a strong endorsement in itself. Still, I can’t help holding out hope for a little bit more in Book 2.

Red Rising will appeal to fans of dystopians in the vein of Battle Royale, those who enjoy lots of wtf-ery, readers who want romance in the trunk, and those who always wished that Molly Saves the Day took place on Mars in the depraved, dystopian future.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

kim teal

64 Responses to “Red Rising: Review”

  1. Charity Casas

    This sounds very good. Adding this to my Goodreads to-read list. Thanks!

  2. Mara

    Oh so excited to read this book! Too bad I’ll have to wait till summer when I’m done with college for the year… ergg …. that’s the thing I hate about college… no free reading time :(

  3. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    S-O-L-D. I have seen this one online a good bit lately and at first I was kinda “meh” but see, these things in your review just made me hop right on over to NetGalley to request:

    “This is a story for readers who, like me, are fascinated by these questions:

    What happens when your enemy becomes your friend?
    What happens when you become your enemy?”

    Me–I’m a reader who is fascinated by those things.


    “One of Red Rising‘s strengths lies in its strong cast of characters”

    because without strong, well fleshed out characters I’m just not interested


    “Also of note, there is very minimal romance. You should know that I am a huge fan of romance in my genre fiction. Some people prefer their romance in the backseat. I say put it in the front seat. Let it drive the car! It’s rather rare that I really like a book that doesn’t have a strong romantic component. So, for me to like this with its bare bones romantic aspect is a strong endorsement in itself. ”

    Like you, I’m fully on board with romance taking the wheel–so yes, it IS a ringing endorsement that this book worked so well for you even without that.

    So glad I saw this review, thanks Kim! And equally glad to see you as a part of The Midnight garden:))
    Heather@The Flyleaf Review recently posted…Book Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

  4. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    Well you sold me on this book, curses on you because I declared breakup between me and dystopian this year. But I got shivers when I read those two questions you posed above, and I can’t wait to meet this strong hero and find out about this gritty world. I love what you said about romance, because I’m the same way. Though sometimes in series it’s stronger if it begins very minimally, that way it doesn’t peak too soon. That is a really good point about it not being YA. I think many people THINK it is, because of the hero’s age. I saw a lot of discussion on Goodreads about it. Reminds me a bit of The Bone Season, which is also assumed to be YA and isn’t. GREAT review.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

    • Kim

      Yay! Your comment made my day, Lauren. :) I can’t wait to see what you think about it! And I am totally down with a romance that starts out minimal and subtle if it’s well done. Have you read the Partials series by Dan Wells? That’s an example of a couple I really, really like and it’s a pretty subtle, backseat romance. It’s so enjoyable to see the characters interact in little ways to show how much they really feel. So I guess when it’s subtle, but present throughout, that’s fine. With Red Rising, it’s a really minimal, doesn’t appear until much later in the story and barely even then romance. It looks on course to play a larger part in the next books, though, and that has me very excited.
      Kim recently posted…Secret (Elemental #4): review discussion

  5. Buona

    This is a fantastic review! To the point that I think I’ll actually read this one, even though like you, one of the main draws of novels for me are the hearts and flowers. LOL on letting it out of the backseat and drive the car.

  6. Rashika

    All my friends love this book. And I love the idea of it except that I am too afraid to pick it up. It sounds intense in a way I am not sure I’d be able to handle. I remember reading 1984 last year and I loved it. But I hated it too. I am not sure the comparison works in this case because I am guessing Darrow is more of a hero but my point is that the intensity of 1984 made it a lot harder for me to swallow the ideas it was presenting. I do like the idea of your enemy becoming your friend and that too in a dystopia. Most of the dystopia’s I’ve encountered lately are so black and white and honestly, I don’t think that’s what dystopia is, it isn’t always about the right and wrong but the grey in between and the idea of your enemy becoming your friend.. well that just goes to show that you cannot really exist in a world that is only black and white.
    I am so glad you enjoyed this Kim. I really do feel like I should pick it up. Maybe I’ll prepare myself by reading tons of chick lit and then diving in. :P

    Lovely Review, Kim! :)

    • Kim

      You’re totally on point, Rashika. Dystopians should highlight how there is no “perfect solution” to a society’s woes. This is very much the story of Darrow transitioning from a black & white view of The Society to one where he understands the nuances inherent in any society. Because we are humans, and humans *are* nuanced. It’s really setting up for a lot of conflict, both internal and external, in coming volumes, and that makes me very excited. Based on everything you’ve described, I actually think you would really like this one. It’s a great exploration of the gray areas of human behavior.

    • Kim

      I pretty much demand romance, too. It doesn’t even need to be romance yet. It could be crazy tension! I just always want a couple I can cheer on. I will say that what little romance there is is very sweet. And! It looks like it will probably have a larger role in Book 2. There’s a lot of potential for angst and hard choices ultimately culminating, perhaps, in better things. We shall see…

  7. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    This sounds great Kim!!! I’ve been on a reading slump for a few weeks now and this sounds like it would take me out of this yucky-I-don’t-want-to-read mood. Great review!!!!

    • Kim

      Oh I hope it takes you right out of that reading slump, Bethzaida. Those are the worst! I hope you like it as much as I did. :)

    • Kim

      I think it’s definitely worth giving it a shot, Jen. There were a ton of little jaw drops and then there was one big “NO WAY” jaw drop followed by cackling. Fair warning that it’s not so much a plot development as it’s just a totally shocking thing that happens. I might not be making sense? You’ll see if you read!
      Kim recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  8. Lucy

    This sounds awesome! I nabbed a copy of this at SDCC this summer but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But you make me want to move it up the queue! And it’s a good sign that you love it even without a big romance component. I’m intrigued!

    • Kim

      Yes, move it up that queue, Lucy! It really is a strong endorsement from me when I like a book without a lot of romance (what can I say? I’m a complete sap :p ). I’d love to hear your thoughts when you finish!

  9. Faye @ The Social Potato

    Goodness. I loved this one as well, Kim. The first thing I thought of when I finished this book was how it was such a genre-changer for me, like it really set the bar high. I felt how the YA science fiction/dystopia genre has been so saturated and how this book revived my love for these genres again. I’m so glad it gave you the same chills and feelings. Book 2 can’t come soon enough!
    Faye @ The Social Potato recently posted…Potato Awards 2013

    • Kim

      This is definitely one of the most unique dystopians I’ve ever read, Faye. People keep talking about how it’s a game changer and I totally agree. I have so many thoughts and questions about what’s going to happen in Book 2. Even nearly 2 weeks after I’ve finished, my mind keeps wandering back to certain scenarios and quandaries that I’d like to see happen. I’d love if it gets even *darker*. I’m also really down for some romantic angst and turmoil which I am absolutely sure we’ll be getting in spades :p I just love a book that keeps me thinking long after the final page is turned.

  10. kimbacaffeinate

    Wonderful review Kim, and yes I had an evil smirk while reading this too. My review won’t post till the 21st, but so agree with you this world freaked me out, and I have no plans to visit. LOL You take on romance made me giggle-snort *trust me it was not attractive* I enjoy romance too, but in this genre I could care less if it exists or not. I love the darker, gritter aspects of this one:)
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Cursed By Destiny by Cecy Robson

    • Kim

      Haha. Oh I am so glad I have an evil smirking buddy in you, Kimba! There’s just something delicious about the evil in dystopians. I *always* want a couple to root for in the books I read. I feel like something is just missing for me when there isn’t. It is a weakness :p Look forwarding to reading your thoughts on this one. I’m glad you liked it too :)
      Kim recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  11. KG

    Kim this is a freaking fantastic review. As someone who also loves romance I couldn’t even think about liking a book without romance. But this sounds OH SO GOOD. It kind of sounds like FROZEN by Melissa de la Cruz. Kind of. I’m going to read this as soon as I can get my hands on it. I love dystopian so I think I’ll really like it! Thanks for sharing!

    Best xoxo,
    KG recently posted…Reaver by Larissa Ione

    • Kim

      Thank you for your sweet words, KG! I haven’t heard of Frozen before; I’ll have to check it out. And, really, there is *some* romance here. It’s just very much in the background of the larger story. I would actually insist that the MC is “fueled by love”. He thinks of his wife often and it’s very sweet and touching. And then there are other things…Well, you’ll see ;)
      Kim recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  12. Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books

    Wow! As a dystopian junkie, I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

    The caste system sounds horrifying and Red Rising seems to be quite an intense read.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Kim, I haven’t seen this book around the blogosphere yet so I’m glad I read your review!
    Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books recently posted…Review: Canary – Rachele Alpine

    • Kim

      I am so happy to provide it. :) “Intense” is the word I come back to over and over again with this book. You’re gonna love it if you’re a dystopian junkie, Nuzaifa (I am too!).

  13. Leandra Wallace

    I must be as dark as you b/c the human teeth clacking in hair is pretty awesome(as long as it’s not my teeth!). And I can imagine it is a pretty intense read, as just your review has me feeling indignant- those poor Pinks, outraged!
    Leandra Wallace recently posted…W.S.S.(Want Some Swag?)

    • Kim

      I knowwwww, Leandra. I know. The Pinks are really in a relatively small portion of the book and I was just *incensed*. It’s a dark world. The human teeth in hair was awesome! I love it whenever a book has me chuckling evilly >:)

    • Kim

      Haha I just knew I needed to make mention of the minimal romance. You minimal romancers are my complete opposite! :p If you love disturbing worlds and minimal romance this is definitely for you, Amber!

  14. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    Woahhh… That’s all I kept saying as I was reading your review. I’m amazed at how “twisted” this book sounds. And it’s so mindblowing how much I want it right now. I was basically sold on this book when you said “What happens when you become your enemy?”. Wonderful review! I will definitely search for this book!
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Review: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

    • Kim

      Oh, it’s *totally* twisted, Marianne. I don’t want to spoil so it’s hard to talk more about that question. But, the series is just going to get more fascinating (probably heartbreaking also, yay!) as it gets further explored. I hope you enjoy it!

  15. Kayla Beck

    Great review, Kim! I think I have this eARC, and I’m definitely going to put it on the top of my reading list if so. I love dark dystopias with strong world and character-building, and this sounds exactly like my cup of tea. :-)
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

    • Kim

      It definitely won’t be for everyone, Kate. But I say give it a shot if you can. It’s one of those books that you’ll know fairly soon into the reading whether the style works for you or not. If you do end up reading it I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

  16. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    You did such a great job describing this book! I was at a loss for words in some aspects because it really is just hard to describe. A lot of WTF moments and gruesome killings. I am so glad you enjoyed it too. Hoping you don’t mind that I link to your review as well? I think you captured a bit of the atmosphere that I wasn’t able to provide :-)
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown

    • Kim

      Oh, thank you, Kristen! Honestly, I’ll admit I agonized over the writing of this review. It really is a difficult book to recap (especially trying not to give anything away) but I thought you did *such* a great job in your review! Truly! And please, link away. I am honored.

  17. Pili

    Wow, what a fantastic first review!
    I was quite wondering about this one since I love dystopians but I don’t want to wade through another wishy washy one, but from your review it’s clear that this book is nothing wishy-washy!
    Minimal romance is something good in my books, not that I don’t enjoy some good romance now and then, but I find it refreshing when it’s kept to a minimum!
    I think this one both me and the bf will enjoy, so we can do a readalong during our vacation!
    Pili recently posted…Friday Reads: ARC Review of Red by Alison Cherry!

    • Kim

      Thank you, Pili! <3 <3

      Definitely not wishy washy! I see reviewers pretty consistently complain that some book or other is "just romance disguised as dystopian/sci-fi/insert genre here" which is always great news to me since I love books like that! But I was thinking specifically of that crowd when I mentioned the minimal romance here. This is definitely for folks who don't want romance masquerading as genre.

      • Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

        I absolutely loved Red Rising, Kim! I thought it was extremely well written, and the big cast of characters is amazing! And so many things happened, most of them I could have never guessed.

        And now that I’ve read your review, I can say that I agree with you on many points. It’s definitely not a YA, even if the hero and a lot of the other characters are quite young. It’s a hard, harsh story about how unhuman human beings can be…
        Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Sidekick Showcase #33 – Compromise

    • Kim

      Thanks, Melanie! <3 Yes, I definitely recommend this for readers who like complex and nuanced ensemble casts.

  18. Chel

    I’m a fan of romance too but I realized subtle romance is much more addictive than right-in-your-face romance, but more frustrating too. I was having second thoughts about this book, but after reading this review, I just want to devour this right away. I haven’t read a new dystopian series for a long time too so this might be a good start.

    • Kim

      Well, that’s about the best news a reviewer can hear, Chel. :) If you end up liking it let me know!

    • Kim

      It’s a pretty wild ride, Karen. To me it has kind of a hybrid adult/YA feel but it’s definitely not YA. The world is brutal and depraved so if you like that then you’ll love this!

    • Kim

      Thank you, Keertana! <3 This one definitely does *not* feel like your typical dystopian. It's a futuristic, sci-fi, dystopian; not the sort of apocalyptic dystopian that's more prevalent. It's a pretty unique book all around, I think. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you read it :)

  19. Wendy Darling

    All right, I saw all the crazy excited reactions over this book and was skeptical, but I’m a few chapters into it now and I have to agree, it’s pretty exciting so far! If you say there are chills and surprises and heartbreak around the corner, that’s even better. I guess I’d better get hustling on reading this. ;)

    Hooray for your first review!

    • Kim

      *happy dance for my first review* :)

      Yay! I’m excited for you to read it, Wendy! You *must* let me know what you end up thinking about it. I’d love to see if our “jaw drop” and teary moments match up.

    • Kim

      I say definitely give it a shot! It has much more of a “scifi” feel than what I typically think of as dystopian.

    • Kim

      Yessssss, Mary, yes! It has all those things. If you end up enjoying it do let me know!

  20. Emily

    I enjoy “wtf” in my dystopia so I’m looking forward to reading this. And an American Girl doll reference at the end? I’m sold!

    • Kim

      Oh yes, Emily. There is plenty “Wtf?!” to go around. My motto has always been “Whenever it is at all possible to include an American Girl reference in a review, do it.” And this one fit pretty perfectly! :p

  1. ARC Review of Red Rising

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