My number one book of last year was Golden Son, by Pierce Brown. It was an impressive addition to the Red Rising series that took the successful formula from the first book, Red Rising, and grew it in inventive and exciting ways. Each book in a trilogy has its own goals, needs, and obstacles. The first book has to draw the reader in, establish the world, and familiarize you with the characters. The middle book needs to raise the stakes in a noticeable way from the first, expand on what has been established, and set up the story for the finale. The final book needs to bring the story together and leave the readers feeling satisfied. Today I will be talking about Morning Star, the sequel to Golden Son and the finale of the Red Rising trilogy, and how Pierce Brown did as his first trilogy comes to a close.
To begin, Morning Star was a good book, but different from its predecessors. Brown established a plot in the first two books about subterfuge in preparation for a third book about revolution, so it made a lot of sense that the tone and direction of the third book changed dramatically. However, Morning Star still has a great deal of the things that made the previous installments great. For example, Brown has continued to build his world even in the third book, paving the way for future novels set in the same universe. The characters are still as vibrant and interesting as the were before, with perhaps one exception, and a cast of interesting newcomers liven things up. The plot of the final book is very enjoyable, though the number of surprises in the final installment are fewer than in books 1 and 2. One thing Morning Star does do better is grow its characters. Darrow shows much more depth and complexity than previously, and the side cast show signs of change as well. All in all it was a very enjoyable book, and spoilers; I am going to give it a pretty good rating at the end of this. On the other hand, is it as good or better than Golden Son? The short answer is no, and the long answer is below.
I did not expect Morning Star to reach Golden Son’s lofty heights for a variety of reasons, but I expected it to be slightly better than it was. The first problem that Morning Star suffers from is some rigidity. One of Brown’s greatest strengths in the previous two books was the nebulous nature of the story. Due to the fact that Darrow was more or less in the dark and didn’t really have a game plan other than a) not die and b) bring down society, it allowed for Brown to create these huge unexpected set pieces that could surprise and delight. In Morning Star, the path to victory is much clearer and it makes the story much more linear with clear objectives that the chaotic prequels. In addition, one of the biggest joys for me in the other two books was enjoying the Gold society and watching Darrow try and maintain his ruse. This is not a part of Morning Star by necessity as the revolution has begun, and Brown unfortunately strips himself of one of his strengths. Despite my comments, I completely forgave these “problems” as they had more to do with plot direction that anything else, but I was less forgiving of some other elements in the book.
Morning Star is a much larger book that its siblings and suffers from some pacing issues. The book managed to both feel like it was sometimes not giving enough time to events as it rushed to the end, and also dragging on as it felt like there was entirely too much to do. However, my biggest problem with the book came with how Mustang’s character was treated. To me it felt as though her entire personality and role in the book was lobotomized for the sake of giving Darrow something to fight for and live up to. While I understand what Brown was going for, I feel he could have achieved this in other ways without erasing who Mustang was as a character.
Despite my complaints, please note that the book is still fantastic. The world is vivid, the characters lovable, the plot exciting, and the book has paved the way for a second trilogy that Brown is now working on. I feel that Morning Star could have been a tad bit stronger, but is nothing to be ashamed of. I recommend Morning Star, and highly recommend the Red Rising series as a whole.
Rating: Morning Star – 8.5/10
Red Rising Trilogy: 9.0/10