Pierce Brown’s Revolution that Backfired
The Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown is already on its fourth entry in the series, titled Iron Gold, with the fifth one being scheduled for publishing in September 2018. Before we actually have a look at the book itself, be warned this isn’t the kind of series you can start reading from any point and get the whole experience. While theoretically I guess you could pick up this book and still enjoy it without reading the previous ones, you’ll be missing out on a lot of context and development which will make this story a bit of a head scratcher. Anyhow, now that you have been adequately warned, let us proceed onwards.
Revolutions are often seen as noble causes where the little people band together in order to terminate whatever oppressor has them under their thumb. While in movies and most fictional books revolutions end in joy and laughter, the reality is a bit more depressing. More often than not, they engender months, years, if not decades of armed conflict as well as massive and violent schisms in society. While the goals might be fulfilled, many will wonder as to whether or not they were worth it.
Iron Gold picks up the story of Darrow once again, the great hero of the revolution which was supposed to change everything for the better, bringing about eternal piece and prosperity. Instead, what they achieved was an endless war claiming innumerable lives for a decade now, with no end in sight at all. The toll is mounting on Darrow and his people, pushing him to undertake a risky and desperate mission to save everyone. Meanwhile, in other worlds, fate is weaving some strange tapestries as three people see their lives collide in strange ways: a young Red girl who rose from the ashes of tragedy, an ex-soldier forced on the galaxy’s most daring heist, and Lysander au Lune, the exiled heir to the Sovereign. Little do any of them know, their destinies are not only about to become intricately linked to each other, but to Darrow and his mission as well.
With each book Brown seems to be getting a bit more ambitious and willing to stray from the proven formula which turned him into such a renowned figure in the world of science-fiction. The first and perhaps most important shift is his decision to adapt multiple perspectives instead of a single one, branching the story into very clear and different segments. Each storyline gives us insight into a particular group of people, such as the council or the enemies. We get to witness how the war has impacted all of them, the different ways in which misery and hope can find their ways into our lives. At the same time, he doesn’t delve too profoundly into anyone, preferring instead a more even repartition of character development.
While this new approach certainly adds some spice and variety to the story, I will say that I felt Lysander au Lune’s plot to be a bit superfluous to the rest of the story. It felt more like a relaxing stroll that ignored the battle raging right next to it. On the other hand, I do understand the author’s need to build things up for following books and maintain a certain chronology. With the amount of characters he has chosen to introduce, I feel it’s almost unavoidable to have segments which are needed for future books to work. Additionally, the skill with which Brown weaves all the tales together is a marvel to behold and I feel it more than earns him forgiveness for the slight flaw that came with his decision.
The Endless Ravages of War
As you might imagine, war plays a rather important role in this book, and one could possibly even make the case for classifying it as a character in itself. The events might be taking place in a future where galactic travel is second-nature, but at its core it becomes obvious that war indeed doesn’t change. It will always leave death and misery in its wake with countless broken souls, and even a victory doesn’t guarantee any kind of end; hatred and rage still boil as strong as ever. It’s quite interesting to see the perspectives various people in this world adopt towards this conflict, how different philosophies colour people’s perceptions. His approach is quite unapologetic and leads to the examination of some rather dark themes, which I believe is necessary given the topic at hand.
Brown spends quite a few pages describing how the war has developed and ultimately he paints a very detailed picture of how the massive conflict shaped lands and lives alike. While I do wish he would show rather than tell on some occasions (a sentiment which became a tad stronger in the latter chapters), ultimately his descriptive prowess is quite commendable as he once again demonstrates the originality of his prose and the unquestionable wealth of his vocabulary.
The Final Verdict
Ultimately, Iron Gold is a worthy way to continue the Red Rising saga as the author takes a few new leaps and with great success. The wordsmithing is impeccable, the characters rich and intriguing, the descriptions of war striking enough to make your heart wrench and stomach turn, and the philosophical ruminations as captivating as ever. If you’ve been enjoying this series up until this book, then I highly recommend you resume your adventures and see where Darrow’s revolution takes him next.