Morning Star by Pierce Brown

With Morning Star, the Red Rising trilogy comes to a satisfying conclusion. The denouement is full of action and pathos and perfectly continues the momentum built up in the previous two volumes. Although not a perfect series for me, I greatly enjoyed both the book and audio narration.

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Story: Darrow has been captured and mentally/physically tortured by The Jackal. But his enemies have once again underestimated his resourcefulness – a flaw that will provide the opportunity for Darrow and his allies to overthrow the Empress and free the Reds.

Morning Star follows Darrow’s unique ability to build a rebellion through acquiring allies. As with previous books, he does so with grit and leadership skills while secretly doubting himself throughout. Author Brown has some great twists especially in this last volume as well as important character development arcs. He allows stories to come full circle, twisting and turning things on their heads. Commendably, events/people of the first book aren’t forgotten by this third book and figure prominently in Morning Star.

When I say this isn’t a perfect series, there are two standout issues for me. First, having an unreliable narrator is a writing conceit that feels more like a betrayal of the reader just to create interest. I.e., if our first person narrator creates a diabolical plan and knows the outcome, we should know about it too (since he wouldn’t be worried or afraid as his plan unfolded as expected). Second, there is a lot of torture porn here – it’s a bit over the top at times. Brown greatly enjoys the physical and mental deprivations he puts his characters through, that’s for sure.

At the same time, I appreciate that the bad guys aren’t superbly evil, that people can change their minds/alignments, and not everything is as it seems on the surface. All those nuances are especially played well in this third book. The things that killed Darrow’s successes and friends in books one and two are the same things that will save him and win the war. As well, the action is well written and keeps a reader invested to see how it will all play out.

In all, this is a series I highly recommend. It was listed as dystopian originally but clearly this is science fiction. The audio narration was good as well.

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