Review: Dark Age
I have been spoiled. Eight hundred pages of sheer story-telling genius have just filtered through the interstices of my gray matter, and now I get to tell you all about the multi-hued and variegated experience of ingesting it all. If you haven’t delved into this particular series yet, it stands to reason that you probably shouldn’t read any further. Spoilers are kind of a given at this stage of the game. You should also go hit Amazon and make up for this lack in judgement. Trust me. You really don’t want to miss out on any more of this guy’s stuff. For you readers/lovers of the series, this is another great one. Let’s go.
DARK AGE (Amazon) by Pierce Brown is the fifth book in the Red Rising series, a story that has gotten better with each new volume. Coincidentally, it has also gotten larger in scope and longer in sheer number of pages, but when the dude writes as well as he does, you’re really not going to find me complaining about that fact.
The story is told through five POV characters this time. One more than in IRON GOLD. The extra POV we get is of Virginia, Darrow’s wife and Sovereign of the Solar Republic. She’s at home on Luna, dealing with the fallout of the actions being taken by her husband, Darrow the Reaper. Darrow has left the surface of Venus where he’s killed the Ash Lord and rushes to Mercury to find that he is three weeks too late. Atalantia, the Ash Lord’s heir, has destroyed the White Fleet Darrow left behind, and now they are preparing to take the surface of the planet. Once they’ve succeeded there, Darrow knows that they will turn to Mars and Luna, the heart of the Republic, and he cannot let that happen.
Lysander au Lune, grandson of the late Sovereign of the Society, has made a deal with the Iron Golds of the outer rim, and brought some of them home to the inner planets to join forces with Atalantia and those fighting against Darrow and the Republic. He brings in his wake though a veritable metric ton of history and ancestral lineage, and thus ingratiating himself into the fluctuating power structure of what remains of the Society will be anything but easy.
Ephraim had just stolen the children of Darrow and Sevro from their would be kidnappers and crashed their shuttle while trying to escape. He awakens to find himself the unwitting guest of Sefi the Quiet, sister to Ragnar and new leader of the Obsidian peoples. Had Ragnar still lived, returning the children to their parents would have been a simple and direct thing, but Sefi sees an opportunity for her people, and Ephraim must handle it all with aplomb while avoiding getting himself killed.
Last comes Lyria. I was dead certain that she’d been killed at the end of IRON GOLD, and so to find her here was a treat indeed, as I really enjoyed her POV last time around. Instead of being killed, she was taken by Victra au Barca, Sevro’s wife, for being the method of injection for those that kidnapped her daughter. She awakes in a prison cell on Victra’s ship where she connects with Volga, who was also taken by the Gold after the botched kidnapping. It isn’t long though before the ship is attacked by a new host and they’re forced to the surface of Mars, where a whole bevy of dangers await them.
This story has become absolutely kermassive, dealing with populations of people in the billions and sums of money in the quadrillions. As such, there seemed an ever-ready supply of fodder for the “meat cannon” that drives the bulk of the plot of DARK AGE along. Prior to this point, the iron rule of the Society has been overthrown and replaced with the Demokracy of the Republic. The problem is that without that iron grip upon the unwieldy masses of people that are spread throughout the expanse of the solar system, there are factions aplenty that are willing to take full advantage of that iron grip being removed. It is in this book that all the skeletons start coming out of the closets as each of those factions raises its head with an eye toward overthrowing the newly formed Republic and wresting control for themselves. There is revenge and hatred and avarice aplenty running through the veins of all colors on all planets and at all ages.
I’m finding it difficult to put words together as to my thoughts about the technical aspects of the novel. There was so much that happened: chaos and battle and victory and betrayal and surprise and horror. It just kept going and going. So, when I say that the pacing seemed both frenetic and measured at the same time, it may not quite put the button on what exactly it was. Actually, the image that comes to mind is the slow-motion exploding elevator scene from The Matrix, where you get to see not only the massive expansion of the firey explosion as it rips through the lobby, but also all of the minor whorls and vortices and varied colors that make up it’s internal flows. Or maybe I’m just a nerd that likes to see fire go. 🙂 Regardless, this thing just didn’t let up from the first step to the last.
The Red Rising fight has spilled across the solar system in apocalyptic proportions. Betrayal & hatred & death on a massive scale, and brilliantly well told
Also, I should likely mention that this book is really well-written. I don’t think I fully understood how well-written it was until I started into A LITTLE HATRED by Joe Abercrombie (my next read), got through the first three chapters, and decided that I wasn’t really enjoying it all that much because it wasn’t all that eloquent. Made me shake my head a little and re-evaluate myself. After another two chapters or so, I was into it and enjoying it just fine. But that initial transition from DARK AGE, took me a while to parse. Impressive stuff.
Despite all of my lavish praise here, I’d have to say that I more fully enjoyed the beginning third of the novel the most. This, unsurprisingly, was the time when Darrow was at the forefront of the story’s progress. Of all the characters, I still feel the tightest bond with him. So much so that despite the fact that I really came to appreciate and respect Lysander in IRON GOLD, when it came time for Lysander to start directly impacting Darrow, my heart immediately turned on him as a character. The second third of the book was perhaps, for me, the least enjoyable (although, still pretty dang amazing), and I think this is because of how large in scope the story became. Almost felt as if Brown was beginning to lose control of the intimate story that I’m used to reading. And maybe Ephraim’s story this time around wasn’t as impactful for me as it was in IRON GOLD. By the last third of the book though, everything came back to where I expected it to be (a tight, personal story), and although I still didn’t like the last third as much as I did the first, it still had a great ending with a great setup for what is assumedly the last book of this phase of the Red Rising story.
DARK AGE is a great entry into the series. If you put my feet to the fire, I’d probably have to say that I enjoyed this one just slightly less than IRON GOLD. But the stuff that this book set up for the next in the series… just whoa. We’re in for a ride, people. Hope you all paid for a ticket. If not, there’s still plenty of time and reason to hop on.
- Recommended Age: 18+
- Language: Strong, but nowhere near as frequent as in Iron Gold
- Violence: LOTS of violence. Bloody, gory bits and mess; references to sexual violence
- Sex: Several references to sex acts and rape, and one explicit scene