Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Genre: Sci-Fi / Young Adult / Dystopian
Synopsis: Darrow is the Reaper of Mars. Born to toil, carved to fight, destined to lead. But he is a broken man. Exposed as a Red in world ruled by Golds, he has been captured and tormented until he is something less than human. And yet, he is humanity’s last chance.
In facing a godlike, ruthless enemy, he must call on every last ounce of strength to prove that loyalty, friendship and love are more powerful than any cold-hearted machine of war.
He has been first Red, then Gold. Now, he must transcend them all. He must become the hero his people believe he is.
Find my reviews of the first two books, Red Rising and Golden Son, here and here.
After a few very hectic weeks, I have finally managed to finish Morning Star, the final book in the Red Rising trilogy, and I’m pretty much lost for words. Be prepared for a long and rambly review of starstruck nonsense, because this is one of the best YA series out there.
This series has been pretty much faultless throughout. I like to think of this as Game of Thrones in space. It’s packed full of plot twists you will not see coming, like that one at the end of Golden Son, as well as an intricate cast of characters and a heart-stopping plot.
So, after that Golden Son ending, you’d be forgiven in thinking that it’s pretty much all over for Darrow and the Rising. But think again. Darrow has continued to grow throughout this series and he reaches his peak here in Morning Star. He’s still very much the Darrow we know and love, but he’s matured and gained even more knowledge and understanding of the world around him. If you want a good example of a character arc, look no further than Darrow. He is entirely fleshed-out and totally believable as a real person. He’s complex, nuanced, troubled and makes a ton of mistakes, not to mention he can be arrogant and hot-headed, but he grows and learns, humbled by the ending of Golden Son. In Morning Star, he has grown into a man worthy of the position that has been forced upon him.
Morning Star throws you right back into the story. I had so many questions I desperately needed answering, but this is a series that will leave you guessing and waiting in agony. It’s also a series that isn’t afraid to shock you and kill off your favourite characters (much like Game of Thrones), so I was constantly on edge reading this novel, but in a good way. If you know the characters are somehow going to get themselves out of every horrible situation, then the story loses its momentum and you cease to care. Brown, on the other hand, knows exactly how to keep the reader on their toes, and the plot-twists, whilst shocking, are always logical.
(Also, as a bit of an aside, I don’t usually like it when the second and/or third book in a series changes setting from the first. I grow attached to the setting in the first book, and a change of scenery in the sequels normally throws me and lessens my enjoyment. However, leaving the Institute in Red Rising and venturing out into the society proper was the next clear step. It wasn’t just a change for the sake of it, it worked, and it allowed the plot and characters to really grow. By Morning Star, the Institute seems like a nostalgic memory, rather than a time I really wished we would return to).
The reader has watched the setting and characters flourish, and finishing Morning Star made me feel like I’d been on a journey with these characters. The plot never falls stagnant but instead reaches new heights. Everything Darrow and the Sons of Ares have been working towards are now in sight, but we worry that things might not turn out right. This is probably one of the first series where I’ve genuinely feared for the protagonist’s life and wasn’t sure he’d survive the finale. The same goes for the other main characters. Mustang, Sevro, Ragnar, and the others are truly in danger of losing their lives for a vast majority of the book, and maybe some of them even do…
But there are no spoilers here. I don’t want to ruin the excitement and worry.
In terms of structure, I thought Morning Star had the best pacing of the three books. Whilst they’ve all been pretty full speed ahead, Morning Star was definitely the one that just kept pushing and pushing. There wasn’t much respite, and it was a little exhausting, but it never made the plot feel dull because there was just so much going on.
Honestly, I don’t really know what to say. I haven’t even written anything in my reading diary for Morning Star because all I could think of to write was ‘FLAWLESS’. This series is just too good. If you want to know how to write an epic Sci-Fi, then pick this up. Even if you’re not a Sci-Fi fan, I highly recommend it. I love Sci-Fi, but usually the sub-genres like post-apocalyptic etc. I like space sagas as long as they’re not too OTT, and whilst there can be jargon in this series, it never makes you feel out of your depth.
And neither does the world-building. It’s very intricate and complex, and whilst there are a few moments of info-dumping, it’s not widespread and boring like can often be the case in fantasy and sci-fi series. You really get a sense of what the setting and society is like without feeling like the author is boring you with unnecessary details.
I perhaps do have a couple of small criticisms for the series and this final installment, but they’re pretty minor. After all, no book is perfect. One thing was that the humour could be a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes it would make me laugh out loud, other times I wouldn’t crack a smile. But humour is very subjective, so what would make me laugh might not make someone else laugh. The other thing was that whilst the climax was brilliant and everything I wanted, I felt the events after the climax, when the loose ends are tied up, was a bit rushed. I didn’t find out what had happened to a few characters and would have liked to see what they were up to following the climactic events, but then I suppose this will probably be addressed in the new sequel series.
Overall, this series and its final installment were pretty much faultless. It has an amazing cast of characters I’ve really grown to love and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their changes and growth. Even when they’ve really pissed me off, I’ve still loved them because they’re flawed, including the characters that can’t quite decide if they’re friend or enemy (I’m looking at you, Cassius. So well-written!). The world-building is complex and interesting and wholly unique. And the plot, whilst it’s a rebellion plot that’s quite familiar in YA, it’s totally its own beast and doesn’t follow the same structures as other rebellion novels.
I am super excited for Iron Gold and the film adaptations, and I swear to god if they screw this series up on the big screen I am going to go wild. But yes, I am so sad this original trilogy is over, but so excited for the sequel trilogy to begin. This was a brilliant ending to a whirlwind series. If you love complex and flawed characters, rebellion and huge plot-twists you’ll never see coming, then this is the series for you.
Have you read this series? Did you enjoy it? Are you excited for the films and sequel trilogy? Let me know in the comments below!