I finished reading this book several days ago and have put off writing a review of it of. This book is very popular and so many people have had their say about it, what could I have to add that would put something new into the conversation? What thoughts could I have that dozens of other people haven’t brought up before? So, I waited to write this, hoping for some kind of epiphany. I’m sorry to say that epiphany moment never came. All the same, I felt the need to throw my two cents in regarding this book.
Why? Because it is wonderful.
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
It was impossible not to fall in love with this story. I tried. I don’t like hopping on the bandwagon. But, when Rick Riordan and Patrick Rothfuss both gave it glowing reviews on Goodreads I thought I would be doing myself a disservice to not pick it up. So, I picked up a very well thumbed copy of it at my local library (this sucker was falling apart at the seams) and settled in.
Not going to lie, those first couple chapters are a hard sell.
We are introduced immediately to our hero, Darrow. Darrow lives in a mining community on Mars. These miners and their family’s are a part of the Red class. They are there working to make Mars habitable for future generations to settle the planet from the dying Earth. These miners are very serious about their jobs and the work is hard. Most die young. Darrow is very good at his job, if sometimes a little reckless. He also has a loving young wife, Eo, who he obviously adores. If it wasn’t for Eo, Darrow would be nothing. She is his hope, his dreams, his everything. When she is put to death, he is broken.
“I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’
‘I live for you,’ I say sadly.
She kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.”
Now, I very nearly put down the book and returned it to the library at this point. Darrow seemed like a spineless, gutless sack of flesh and I couldn’t see how he could possibly grow to be anything else. He annoyed me. He was completely and utterly broken by his wife’s execution as she was the only thing he had ever cared about and was just a slobbering mess. No thoughts of his own, no nothing. Just Eo.
So, with a great deal of sneaking and deception, Darrow is taken from his Red camp and is shown by a leader of rebellion that everything he thought he knew was wrong. His people weren’t living and dying in the mines to make Mars habitable to save future generations. The future was already here and the planet was settled in glorious fashion. Towering cities, lush accommodations, and so much frivolity that it was sickening to Darrow who had never had enough. The rebellion selects him to lead a revolution, freeing the people from the ugly caste system of which the Reds are the lowest. The Golds, the ruling class, fly high above everyone and govern with an iron fist.
To succeed in this rebellion, Darrow must become a Gold.
The story from that point on is entirely enthralling. Each time I put it down I only wanted to pick it up again. Darrow joins this group of rebels and commits to their cause for Eo. Her dream was to be free, for her people the be free, and Darrow lives on and fights for her. Nothing is going to stop him.
I couldn’t care less about his little love story but since it is his driving force it is certainly important for the plot to progress. From that point Darrow finds himself transformed into a Gold and put into a game that is meant to train a class of Golds to rule. That’s where the real story for this book is, during this game. This training exercise. Golds that are on the cusp of becoming adults are tested and conditioned to become the best of the best. They slaughter each other to come out on top and through this Darrow must adapt or be destroyed. If he dies, Eo’s dream is lost.
I think Darrow ended up being such a good character because of his capacity to learn. He starts the story as a weak willed little shit that annoyed the crap out of me with his mindless drudgery. But he learns. He makes takes chances, makes mistakes, and learns how to be better. He learns how to be good enough to maybe, just maybe, win in this war game with the young Golds. If he does that, he will then have the opportunity to try to topple the government and free the enslaved people of not only Mars, but all humans who are subjugated to a slave-like existence under the ruling class.
If you haven’t read this book I sincerely suggest you give it a try. The world Brown wove is so vivid and enthralling I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. I’ve seen many people compare this to The Hunger Games but it is so much more than that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those books, but the story with Darrow has so much more depth and detail. The Reds, Golds, and everyone in between are written as to seem human with their flaws and triumphs. I’m very much looking forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy down the road. I don’t think there is any way that Brown can let me down.
“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”