Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads Blurb: Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within. Finally, the time has come. But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied – and too glorious to surrender.
After: I want to cry but I can’t. This was a gritty, bittersweet ending to a wonderful sci-fi series.
I have to give props to Pierce Brown for completing this amazing trilogy within 3 years. What an incredible gift it is to churn out this tomes each year for your readers!
Morning Star starts off nine months after the crazy cliffhanger in Golden Son and whereas the previous books started with a bang, this one was rather miserable. Darrow is disillusioned and suffering mentally from replaying all his mistakes in his mind. Even though he reminisced for over a dozen pages, the writing was engrossing and made up for the lack of action. One of the biggest strengths of this book is the eloquence of the writing and mastery of vocabulary with which each word is chosen.
I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war. My name is Darrow of Lykos. You know my story. It is but an echo of your own. They came to my home and killed my wife, not for singing a song but for daring to question their reign. For daring to have a voice. For centuries millions beneath the soil of Mars have been fed lies from cradle to grave…They expect your obedience, ignore your sacrifice, and hoard the prosperity that your hands create. To hold tight to their reign, they forbid our dreams. Saying a person is only as good as the Colors of their eyes, of their Sigils.
In all honesty, it took me much longer to read these 518 pages because I stopped to absorb the complexity of the sentences. Part of this might also have to do with the wide cast of characters and the long list of scientific terminology for the world. Brown graciously provided us readers with a Dramatis Personae and a helpful map that delineated the political boundaries between the Sovereign, Rim, and other planets.
The story line was fast-paced and had me flipping pages like there was no tomorrow. Darrow goes through a tremendous amount of character development from being reckless, arrogant, and insouciant to valuing rationality, seeking mediation, and humility. I liked this new side of him very much because if fans remembered, his downfall in Golden Son was his extreme sense of righteousness. I liked the epic sprawl of battles in which glory beget glory but this book opened with Darrow steeped in defeat. By tracing back to his roots, it was nostalgic of Red Rising (and Golden Son: “Rise so high, in mud you lie.”) but Darrow is no longer confident that he is the right person to lead this revolution. Oftentimes, people forget that leaders have as much insecurity as a normal person and their abilities to bring change lies not only in themselves but with the help of others. Behind Darrow, stands an amazing crew of loyal friends that took care of the logistics and all minor kinks in the plan. Mustang proved herself to be exceedingly intelligent and supportive of Darrow. Without her, the tides would not shift as strongly as they did. Ahh, true love prevails.
“An outlandish promise,” Roque says. “Darrow is only who he is because of who is around him.”
“Agreed,” Mustang says cheerily.
“And I still have everyone around me, Roque. Who do you have?”
“No one,” Mustang answers. “Just dear old Antonia, who has become my brother’s quisling.”
Of course, we can’t forget our precious Victra who suffers from her own disappointments, fears, and the realization of those very fears. It still harbors a vendetta against Antonia which is well-justified so she was sort of a loose cannon. She’s not quite tamed but her wit made for a lot of entertainment.
“My name is Felicia au…” I feint a whip at her face. She brings her blade up, and Victra goes diagonal and impales her at the belly button. I finish her off with a neat decapitation.
“Bye Felicia.” Victra spits, turning to the last Praetorian. “No substance these days. Are you of the same fiber?”
But I have to say Sevro’s ultimate blunders takes the cake and makes him one of the best characters so far. One of my favorite scenes that officially made me a fan of Sevro was when he tried to hang himself to prove a point. The mob is set to hang Cassius for being a Gold and murderer, but Darrow’s words do not placate the seething crowd. And then Sevro intercepts.
“I am Ares! I am a murderer too!” He puts his hands on his hip. “And what do we do to murderers?”
This time no one answers.
He never expected them to. He grabs the cable from the neck of one of the kneeling Golds, wraps it around his own neck…winks and backflips off the railing.
…Sevro’s rope snaps taut. He kicks, choking beside Cassius. Feet scrambling. Silent and horrible. Face turning red, on its way to purple like Cassius’s.
It’s powerful and effective because what do you think happened next?
I admit, I still haven’t warmed up to Cassius and I think his twisted sense of honor came around to bite him. Roque carried that pride and honor which is the complete opposite of Darrow’s underhanded methods. However, what’s honor worth when you’re under the reins of the Sovereign? Although these were characters that fought on the wrong side, I still retained a remnant of empathy for their misguided notions. Ultimately, I felt sympathy for the Jackal, Aja, and Octavia because I understand why they did the things they did but in no way did it excuse the tragedies they wrought.
Aside from several major character deaths, the book was still relatively gruesome and the casualties were high for the war. I wouldn’t recommend this book to kids under 14 and this borders onto the adult genre. Although there’s a grim outlook on whatever future the solar system will encounter, the last two books gave me immense faith in Darrow’s abilities. He may have been broken many times but he still emerged as the undisputed leader of the Rising. The powerful ending tied up many loose ends but it also spawned a new trilogy (Iron Gold) for 2017. There are ramifications for all that Darrow has committed and he continues to do whatever he must to achieve his means.
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Look at how pretty and color-coded these books are side by side!