Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Iron Gold - Pierce Brown (Red Rising #4)

Some say this is the fourth book in the Red Rising Series.  Others say it is the beginning of a new saga in the Red Rising universe.  Either way, if you're not familiar with the series, I recommend starting with our review of Red Rising (#1) here.  Reading this one first would be too confusing.   And talk about SPOILERS.

Summary:  They call him Father, Liberator, Warlord, Slave King, Reaper.  But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy.  This is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.

A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society.  But the Rising has shattered everything:  Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war.  Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission.  Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow's to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy--or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one.  Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.  (Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I took this book with me on a trip to San Diego where I spent a good deal of my trip holed up in my hotel room, under the covers, devouring each page.  It took less than two days of determined (occasionally interrupted) reading to finish this 600-page book.  I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself again in the world that Pierce Brown has created, and have only one true lament...

...I waited too long.

I have had this book for a few months and could have read it at any time, but I really wanted to enjoy it and so I saved it for my trip.  Consequently, some of the details of who-did-what-where in the last book were fuzzy.  It took me a while before I settled back into the book, but I never felt entirely secure that I wasn't missing connections I might have made had I read this book directly after the other one.  That's on me.  That having been said, I really would have liked to see a short paragraph-sized summary of what had happened in the previous book at the beginning of this one (like there was in the last book, Morning Star).  It would have helped refresh my recollection. *sigh*  Thankfully, there was an extensive character glossary and a galaxy map to help clarify a few things and the rest I was able to glean while reading.

As with the other books in the Red Rising series, there is a whole heck of a lot going on in Iron Gold.  It was nuts -- in a good, pulse-accelerating, holy-crap-did-that-just-happen kind of way. In true Pierce Brown style, the story twists and turns on a dime.  You think you know what's going to happen?  How it's all going to end?  Read a few more pages and then tell me that again.  Oh, wait.  You can't! Enemies have become allies and friends turned into foe.  Up is down and left is right.  Everything you thought you knew just got lit on fire and tossed right out the window.  Enjoy!

One of the big changes in the story is that ten years have passed since the close of the last book and a lot has happened in the interim.  Many familiar characters remain, some of whom have become frustratingly distant and/or adorable parents.  Additionally, those who were once young children have now become major players in the story.  I hope you're ready to welcome a whole new generation of awesome.  There are also several entirely new characters that enter the story, namely, a young girl named Lyria and an ex-soldier named Ephraim.  Although the last three books have been told almost exclusively from Darrow's perspective, Iron Gold alternates between several different perspectives that eventually begin to intertwine.  There really was no other way to tell this part of the story without the additional perspectives, so the change didn't really bother me once I got into the swing of it. 

One of the things that I both loved and hated about this book was the author's tendency to drop subtle, seemingly insignificant clues along the way that end up being pivotal plot-twisting details later on.  I don't really want to give away any of these little tidbits, because I think they are tortuously brilliant, but I did spend certain sections of the book flipping back and forth from one spot to another trying to confirm my suspicions about this-that-and-the-other.  I will say that the first small, but gut-wrenching, example of this happens before you even hit Part I.  It was mean, Pierce Brown.  Just plain mean.  And yet, I remain impressed (and paid close attention after that).

It wasn't until a good way through the book that I first heard the titular term "Iron Gold" used to describe a person of gold lineage who seemed particularly honorable, duty-bound, and willing to do anything for the benefit of the people.  There have been several examples of "Iron Gold" characters in this series and, up until this book, I might have said that Darrow was one of them.  Now I am no so sure.  In the first three books, Darrow was the kind of character who did what needed to be done, regardless of the personal cost; he was always willing to sacrifice himself and others for those he loved and for his people.  Till now, that has felt like an admirable thing, but this book shows a new side of Darrow -- a man changed by years of brutal warfare and convinced that only he can bring an end to the violence.  When Darrow makes a call that kills a million people and conceals vital information from newly formed leadership, even some of his fiercest, most loyal supporters begin to question whether his way is the best way to achieve peace.  Darrow's fall from grace was hard to watch.  It made him harder to love and his actions nearly impossible to justify, but made his character feel more human, vulnerable, and authentic.  Ultimately, Darrow faces an impossible choice...and I'm still not sure if he made the right one.  Only time, and the next book, will tell.  Dark Age, the fifth book in the Red Rising series will be released July 30, 2019.

Ugh.  Waiting sucks.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Plenty of violence and swearing, specifically of the F variety but also some others    Some sexual innuendo and mild sexual situations.

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