Nathan‘s Beginner’s Guide to the Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown.
The Red Rising series has quickly become one of the most popular science fiction series, inheriting the “crown” once held by The Hunger Games. What is the series about? What should you expect? This guide is here to help!
How Many Books are in the Red Rising Series?
There are currently five published novels in the Red Rising Series. The first three – Red Rising, Golden Son, and Morningstar – make up a complete trilogy. The series then continues with a follow-up series that is currently made up of Iron Gold and Dark Age. This second series will continue with Lightbringer to be published in Summer 2023, plus one more novel to finish the series.
In addition, there are two graphic novels that act as a prequel to the series. Son of Ares Volume 1 and Volume 2 are not necessary to enjoy the series (and are honestly the weakest part), and they should be read after you finish the initial Red Rising Trilogy.
What is the Red Rising Series About?
Red Rising is a futuristic dystopian series set in a world where society is divided up into various Colors. Each Color has a particular job that they contribute to society, and the Colors also create a very strict social hierarchy. The Red Rising series follows Darrow, a member of the Reds, the lowest ranked Color. The Reds lived below the surface of Mars and they mine energy for the rest of the society. The Reds have always been told that they must stay underground because humans have made the surface completely uninhabitable. However, Darrow (and the reader) finds out that the situation is much more complicated than that. After suffering tragedy at the hands of the tyrannical government running their society, Darrow decides to infiltrate the highest levels of society, the Golds, and dismantle it from the inside out.
What Should I Expect from the Red Rising series?
As you start this series, it is important that you set your expectations correctly. A lot of readers either love the first book (Red Rising) and don’t care for the rest, or the complete opposite.
The first book in the series, Red Rising, read similarly to the Hunger Games (or similar books of that type). Darrow infiltrates the Golds and must go through their academy training, competing in dangerous and deadly trials. Despite being dark and brutal, some readers do not like that this first book reads a bit more YA heavy and feels like a knock-off of other YA series.
The series changes significantly in the second book, Golden Son. This book sets the path for the rest of the series as it transforms from a “death games” book to an epic grimdark space opera. The rest of the series has political intrigue, competing powerful families, deadly deceptions, inter-planetary warfare, large space battles, and more. The series drastically improves in these next two books, but it is a big shift from what you start with in Red Rising.
The sequel series, starting with Iron Gold, changes again as the story and series continues to expand and sprawl. In the initial trilogy, the only POV character is Darrow. However, in the sequel series we get multiple POV characters, and the series fully comes into its own as an epic space opera. The sequel series somehow also gets even darker from the earlier books, reaching its grimdark pinnacle (so far) in Dark Age. I know a lot of readers who think this is the best book in the series, while many others were completely turned off by it. If you like dark books though, you will be right at home here.
Do You Recommend the Red Rising Series?
I do! I really enjoyed my time in Pierce Brown’s universe, and I cannot wait for the next book to be released (although a reread of Iron Gold and Dark Age will be needed!). The plots in these books move quickly, with so many twists and turns that you won’t see coming. There is also a cast of memorable characters that, while not always likable, are fascinatingly complex and well-drawn. Sevro in particular has become a fan favorite!
Anything Else I Should Know About Red Rising?
I want to reemphasize that these books are dark. Topics in the books include (but are not limited to) murder, cannibalism, sexual assault [I think all off page, but I’m not confident], slavery, mutilation, execution, suicidal ideation, and eugenics. These books will definitely not appeal to all readers.