The fact that I finished this book a week ago and have still been unpacking my thoughts on it should be sufficient indication how much I enjoyed it.
I’m a die-hard fan of the first Red Rising trilogy, so I knew what to expect when diving into Pierce Brown’s latest, 600-page offering. I just wasn’t expecting Iron Gold to so wildly depart from the structure of the previous books, while still maintaining so much of the series’ identity, jacked up on Sevro’s steroids.
Never before has the world felt so alive and rich and full of wonders and danger. The world-building is a lot smarter this time; there’s no lengthy info-dumps; there’s droplets of exposition and hints of how this world and it’s microsocieties function, from the scarcity-minded people on the Rim who’s decorative tastes and methods of torture match their lifestyle aesthetics, to the political arenas on Luna taken directly from democratic councils in ancient Greece, to the cyberpunk-esque superstructures and the people that inhabit them. The world(s) slowly build in your mind until there’s a very vivid and very personal universe coming alive on page. It commands attention, and it deserves it.
And just of commanding of attention are the characters. Going for four PoVs was the correct choice, although some were much more interesting than others. Ephraim’s guff, raw attitude could have been pulled straight from Blade Runner, Lysander’s complex and nuanced storyline and characterization made me hate how much I loved him, Darrow is as delightfully rash and stubborn as ever, and Lyria’s cocky attitude brings a new set of eyes to the world. Lyria’s PoV was decidedly the weakest, and her character arc felt a little too sudden. And if there’s any fault I can find in this book, it’s that Darrow is more absent from the on-screen narrative than he should be. Darrow’s the heart and soul of this world, after all, so it was disappointing not to see him and the Howlers (and Sevro, the little devil) taking a more on-screen role. I’d have gladly swapped a good chunk of Lyria’s PoV for his.
But in saying that, each of the characters are phenomenally sketched, their emotions and feelings so sharply detailed that it’s impossible not to care about them ever so much. The events of any given narrative cannot emotionally support itself unless it has the central characters and their feelings, reactions and social views providing the backbone. And in Iron Gold’s case, each of these characters’ reactions to the unfolding events is a quiet revelation. Their feelings are messy and rash and motivated by spur of the moment decisions (which they may or may not soon regret), filled with heart-break and rage, and it’s wonderful to embroil yourself in the middle of this chaos. I felt like I was with them every bloody step of the way, right until the bitter end that felt me hating how much I love Pierce Brown, but also want to scream at him.
This book is nothing less than a phantasmagorical mash-up of science-fictional exuberance jacked-up to the hilt. There’s so much richness and goodness bursting out of the seams of the characters, technologies, planets and cities of the world it threatens to spill over. Science-fiction is said to be the genre of ideas, and never has it been more true here. The action is as bloody and brutal as ever, the suits of armor and weapons lovingly detailed and described, the politics as cuthroat as ever, the world several shades darker and more messed up than it’s ever been, and the almost endless cast of characters play their roles as productions of their culture and upbringing to levels so theatrical it’s almost Shakespearean. Brown’s velvety prose is so rich and jam-packed with detail and tiny literary gems it’s like he didn’t think he’d get the chance to ever write another book. Even on its own, every page is a delightful morsel. As a whole, this book is a dessert masterpiece.
Pierce Brown has absolutely out-done himself in almost every way and should be given a round of applause for producing something so stellar it reaches meteorological greatness. It might be too early to call it book of the year, but I’m going to do it anyway.
The wait for Dark Age will be unbearable.