“They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life. A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself? And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined. An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life. And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes. Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one.”
I am … unhappy… and conflicted. Conflicted would certainly be the word I have to use the most. I was so ecstatic when I found out that Pierce Brown was writing another novel, but I thought it would be around different characters. The truth is, it is and it isn’t. Some of our favorite characters have returned, including Darrow, his howlers, and characters we know and love, and some new characters have surfaced. The story is now told from four points of view, including from one character we met briefly, and two new ones.
Darrow is no longer the boy we knew. A decade of war has changed him, and rightfully so. However, this novel dashes any hopes and dreams I had for him at the end of Morning Glory, and there were many times when I wished we could have just left him there and never returned to his story. Also, many times I just wanted to slap some dadgum sense into his brain, and make him realize that he did not always have to be rash. I mean, like I was seriously so angry reading this novel that I almost threw the blasted thing (except, it is rather large and heavy at over 600 pages). Unfortunately, I could not do that. Pierce Brown is also such a compelling writing that I could not put the story down. I kept reading. So, I am left conflicted.
What I liked most about this story is the young girl we meet on Mars. It was the main thing that kept me reading the story, and I at one point (I’m ashamed to admit) flipped ahead and just read her pieces of the story to make sure nothing happened to her. I’ll leave you wondering whether it did or not… Lyria is my favorite new character. She is brave, and scared, and conflicted. She is fighting for herself and for others. Her character knows the cost of war, what it means to be made promises and then left behind, and the dark side of revolution. A quick study, she works hard to be a better person, and make a better life, but like so many of us, we long for others to understand us, and we become lost. Her story was certainly my favorite, and the way that Brown connects it to the other three (for they all become connected in some way), is an amazing thing. Actually, the way Brown connects these four characters was truly fascinating. I imagine in my head that he has a whole room dedicated to the story of these novels, with a very long and complicated timeline along all four walls…
As with any book on war, we are met with death and tragedy. I have complimented Pierce Brown before on his ability to write war in such a way as to make it real to those of us who have never experienced it (albeit, in space, and with much fancier weapons than we have on Earth) – he faces down the tragedy, and the horror, and the senselessness of it in his stories, with unashamed transparency to the utter awfulness tha war is. Breaking my heart again, over and over and over. When I sit and think about it, Iron Gold is truly an honest continuation to Morning Glory, because while many authors would wrap the revolution up with a pretty bow, create a new government and move the story along, Brown is showing us the true cost of any war, the way the real-world works, and the cost of one person’s dream. Even if we did not want to see it. To be clear, I’ve pretty much decided, I did not want to see it. The ending in my head was so very much happier.
Though we may have had many favorite characters from the original trilogy, be warned that though they are still there (if they were alive at the end of Morning Glory), their parts to play in the new novels are not as large. We see a few of the original howlers here and there, but they are no longer the central characters to the plot. A piece of me misses them, but another part of me is glad for the change, and loving the new people we meet. A couple of the howlers are still with Darrow during the story, and seeing how they have grown and changed was a wonderful part of coming back to this world (Sevro, I’m looking at you).
Brown races back into the world we had to come know, and reintroduces us to a world torn apart by war but slowly trying to come back together. He writes in multiple points of view, flowing from the one to the next without a hitch and still giving each of the four characters their own voice (Darrow’s is much the same, but more depressing). It would seem as if he writes as naturally as some of us breathe air, and indeed the second (if you view this as a new trilogy, which I originally thought it was)/fifth Red Rising novel (Dark Age) will come out in September this year – only nine months after Iron Gold is released; that is something to be thankful for, though it does not have a promising title.
Our other two new narrators, Lysander au Lune (though someone we briefly met before), and Ephraim, are interesting and add their own flavor to the story. Ephraim is a bitter thief, who understands the cost of war but is lost in his own tragedy. Lysander is dealing with coming to terms with his own history, and how to become the man he thinks he should be. Ephraim is probably my least favorite of our new narrators, with Lysander coming in second behind Lyria.
This book is as fast paced as the others, leaving us on a major cliffhanger. I am still playing a guessing game as to who some of the leading bad buys really are, and praying that Darrow eventually comes to his senses, or maybe is making the right choices. I mean, I have never been so conflicted over whether or not I like a book before. I loved so much about this, and then hated so very much at the same time.
As always… I’m looking forward to the next one…
Pierce Brown lives in Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre. You can connect with Pierce on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. You can also visit his website at http://piercebrownbooks.com/