Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Dark Age - Pierce Brown (Red Rising #5)

This book is either the fifth book in the Red Rising Series or the second book in a new series set in the Red Rising universe, with many of the same characters.  I've heard it both ways, but prefer the former for reasons that will become apparent in my review.  

Summary:  For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society.  Now, outlawed by the very Republic that he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo.  But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains?  Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core.  Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband.  Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?

Once a Red Refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate exsape with unlikely new allies.  Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation -- and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-from -- and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed -- every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

My Review:   You guys, I can't even.  I just finished Dark Age and I am sitting here trying to come up with the words to explain how I feel and arrange them in a somewhat intelligent matter, but I am failing miserably because I am traumatized.  Beyond traumatized.  Like, if it's possible to get PTSD from reading something, I think I might have to self-diagnose.

Dark Age is aptly named as it is by far the darkest tome in the existing Red Rising Series.  And not just a little bit darker.  Exponentially darker. Infinitely darker.  The author calls the book a 'bloody spectacle' and, I must say, that is an epic understatement of ridiculous proportions.  It is probably one of the most, if not the most violent book I have ever read.  I usually save this stuff for the "sensitive reader" section, but just in case you don't make it down there I don't want to be held liable for your therapy costs.  Pierce Brown is an amazing writer whose words evoke images so clearly you can see absolutely everything as if it were high definition.  But that's the problem!  YOU CAN SEE ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and you can't unsee it!  Just when you think something might work out sunshine and daisies, cue: Betrayal. Death. Coup. Death. Invasion. Death. And, trust me, no one is safe.  It was truly, awfully, horrifically violent and I need to go bleach my brain.

I hope I have been clear.  Now, on to the rest of the review...

Dark Age is told from multiple points of view (Darrow, Lysander, Virginia, Ephraim, and Lyria) and takes place on Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Luna (the moon) and all the outer space in between.  The result is a world so thoroughly complex and utterly massive in scope it was easy to get lost in the logistics.  And I did.  A lot.  I was continually trying to get my bearings and never quite succeeded. It was a struggle to keep the who, what, where, and why of it all straight, even with a map and five pages of dramatis personae  - like I was seated on a constantly spinning chair smack in the middle of an enormous never-ending battle with a million different players, always moving but never forward.   The only thing I could be absolutely sure of is that I couldn't be sure of anything.  Eventually, I gave up and tried, with varying degrees of success, to make sense of what I could from context.  It's quite possible a greater mind than mine could have kept it all straight, but they aren't writing this review.

No matter how I feel about the subject matter or complex story line, I will always love the characters  of the Red Rising series like Darrow, Virginia, Sevro, Victra and so many others that have been introduced, come into their own, or been fleshed out in the last few books.  The characters are why I have stuck around even though guts and swearing just aren't my thing.  Much of what I loved in previous books was not what happened on the battle front, but what happened between individuals, often between conflicts.  Dark Age didn't have much of that or, if it did, it was utterly eclipsed by the chaos of war.  There were some breathtaking, grin-inducing moments, but I had to slog through a whole lot of bloodshed to find them.  Ultimately, I *force read*, hoping for a resolution that never came, watching more and more beloved characters meet their end in a myriad of horrifying ways.

And you know what?  I just can't do it.  I feel mentally exhausted and emotionally eviscerated.

If other reviews are any indication, plenty of people have loved this book, but I am choosing to leave while there are a few characters left I simply can't bear to lose.  Before I do, I want to close this review with my favorite quote from Dark Age, which I think is a pretty good measure of humanity:
You know I believe we all begin equal parts light and dark.  I fear you think your strength is in your darkness.  But the measure of a man is not the fear he sows in his enemies.  It is the hope he gives his friends.     - Virginia, to Darrow
I have decided not to read the next book when it comes out and, because in my head I can do all sorts of things, I am *mentally* terminating this series after the third book.  The Red Rising series is as follows:  Red RisingGolden Son, and Morning Star.  The.  End.

There.

*Dusts hands off* 

Done.

*Sniffle*

My Rating: 3 stars  (I would probably give this book a 2 because of all the sensitive reader issues and maaaaaaaybe a 4 for the characters and story.  So, to be fair, I averaged it.)

For the Sensitive Reader: This. Book. Is. Not. For. You.  You name it, it's in here.  Graphic (doesn't even begin to cover it) violence.  Copious profanity (favoring the F word) to the point that I stopped 'counting' pretty early on.  Unbelievably violent. Crude language and sexual innuendo.  Did I mention violence?  There is mention of rape and even a sexual situation, which up to this point in the series hasn't been an issue. Also violence.  Do I make myself clear?  You have been warned.

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