“When the first colonists ventured forth from Earth to make their home on the moon, they created a hierarchy for labor. In time, they improved this hierarchy through genetic and surgical manipulation of their fellow man. The result was a color-coded Society of perfect efficiency, one dominated by a superior breed of humanity, the Golds.”
(Usual warning, merely mentioning characters who appear in book 2 might be considered spoilers for book 1 – so go read the wonderful Red Rising instead of this might-be-spoilery-for-it review ;))
We pick back up with Darrow following his graduation from the Institute that made him kill his peers to prove himself worthy of leading Gold society. But of course, Darrow isn’t really a Gold – he’s from the lowly Red caste, ‘carved’ to mimic his social superiors in every way to help bring down the civilisation that oppresses so many.
What follows is an action-packed roller coaster of political machinations. Darrow’s rise is not assured, his battles far from over. Then there’s all the emotional baggage to sort out – and that might prove more tricky than attempted assassinations. Trust is a rare commodity at the best of times, never mind when you’re lying to your friends about the most basic aspect of yourself.
I ended up not quite loving this book as much as its predecessor, but that’s not a big complaint! I think perhaps the claustrophobia, the more defined playing space, of the Institute worked in the story’s favour, whereas now we’re out in the big bad solar system and it makes things a little wilder. There were points when I found the action a little exhausting, then the politics a little heavy. And yet overall it works brilliantly.
What really lifts this is the author’s exquisite use of language. While wholly fitting with the themes of war and plotting and revenge, there are such poetically lifting turns of phrase. For example:
“Roses of a thousand shades fall from the trees as Golds fight beneath them. They’re all red in the end.”
Still, if I was inclined I could pick holes in things. Darrow is maybe a little too perfect. There’s a sense of inertia often found in such stories, where nothing has really changed for generations until this ‘special’ new characters comes along. And I found the introduction of a new character, a new sub-race, to feel quite sudden. Perhaps I just didn’t notice a mention in book one?
But, small complaints. The whole is still gripping. Absolutely no spoiler to say that the book ends on a cliffhanger, so thank goodness book 3 is already available – and next on my TBR to find out how this might possibly all resolve!
Kindle: 443 pages / 51 chapters
First published: 2020
Series: Red Rising book 2
Read from 23rd July – 3rd August 2020
My rating: 8/10