From the day that it was announced, to the day I had it in my hands, Iron Gold built up its own hype in my mind with little to no outside influence. I was excited because obviously I loved the Red Rising trilogy, and returning to see some of my favorite characters was sure to be an adventure. But also more than a little nervous because, well, have you read the Red Rising books?! Pierce Brown has no issues with bringing unmentionable pain, or killing off his characters, beloved or not, and the odds of my favorites surviving another three books seemed slim to none.
Warning before picking up Iron Gold: If you liked the ending of Morning Star, or if you would prefer a happy ending for your favorite characters, than it is probably best that you pretend that Iron Gold doesn’t exist. Because some people will undoubtedly be uncomfortable with the way Pierce Brown makes them feel in this 600+ page monstrosity. Pandora’s box has been opened, all hell has been unleashed, and picking up Iron Gold is most certainly a commitment to emotional pain. Isn’t reading fun?
Iron Gold expands past the inner thoughts and outward actions of the Reaper, Darrow of Lykos. Instead, we get four separate POV characters, all from different backgrounds. Scattered throughout the Solar System and all with their own agendas, these four characters have morals and beliefs that directly conflict with one another, which ultimately makes for a complicated reading experience.
Admittingly, the first 100-150 pages of the book were a tad rough for me. Not because the book was poorly written, but instead the scope and vastness of it were overwhelming. You have four point of views, two completely new characters, that are all telling their own stories, in their own individual voices, with their own secondary characters, and their own plots. Getting to the point in the book where I was able to see the bigger picture on each of the four story-lines took a bit longer than I was hoping it would, but once I got there it was amazing to see not only the importance and purpose each character served, but how everyone was connected.
Four first person POVs is a lot, and while I was initially put off, it ended up really working well for this book. Despite the vastness of this overall story, the relationship that the reader establishes with each of the characters is what makes it such an intimate read. Not only that, but PB does a great job of painting a morally gray area that left me feeling very uncomfortable. In the Red Rising books, Darrow consistently toes the line of moral injustices, but because he was telling us HIS story, the reader for the most part can sympathize with his actions – even if they are questionable. In Iron Gold, one character’s actions have direct consequences to another character’s story-line. It makes it a lot harder to fully agree with or completely disagree with any of the narrators. And I assume that’s the point. You have all of these people from different levels of society telling their story and how THEY see it.
Because I can’t finish this review without sharing some brief thoughts on all the new characters, here is what I thought about the 4 POVs in a sentence or two:
- Lyria – A young Red, her story tragic and filled with justifiable anger. She doesn’t have the tools that Darrow had in the Red Rising trilogy, so her anger is unfocused, but I grew to really like her chapters. It is also refreshing to have a female POV since we will probably never be privy to Mustang’s voice.
- Ephraim – Has almost a rogue, Han Solo type vibe. He is horribly self-destructive, filled with anger and sadness. He frustrated me until the end of the book because I couldn’t see what his purpose was, but know that he is focused on solely his own agenda and cares nothing for the larger picture.
- Lysander – I really enjoyed the tone and the setting of Lysander’s chapters; he describes himself as an explorer and a philosopher, and his super unique POV reflected a character of higher intellect. However, I do think it was an interesting choice by PB to include a POV character with an opposing view of how Society should be run/governed, than the one that we just spent three books reading about. Curious how this will play out.
- Darrow – One of my favorite characters ever had absolutely zero development in this book. I assume PB did this was on purpose, but good lord, let me count the ways Darrow disappointed me in this book…. Oh wait, I can’t. There were too many.
If I get into all of my thoughts and analysis on all the new characters, we will literally be here ALL. NIGHT. As it is already, I have been working on this review for 11 days, so it is high time I start to wrap things up. Maybe at some point before Dark Age is released, I will do a discussion post on all of the new POVs, their character arcs, and their potential throughout the rest of this trilogy. Maybe. Someone hold me accountable to this.
The writing is incredible though. I thought PB really flexed his writing muscles with this book because I really felt his words in my heart. I don’t necessarily want to say his writing is poetic, because the things he writes about are not beautiful. But, he has this flow to his stories that is completely entrancing. It is a perfect blend of action, suspended on the edge of a cliff always waiting for the drop, combined with romantic descriptions that aren’t overly flowery, but certainly evoke imagery past your standard painted picture.
So, let me end this by saying: This is no easy read. Iron Gold demands your full attention. You must take your time, absorb everything, bask in the details, the characters, the schemes. This series is going to be much more political than the original Red Rising books, denser not just in page count, but content as well. But it is worth every damn second. Every damn word. If it wasn’t known before, PB has absolutely established himself as a powerhouse in the sci-fi community.
I have never felt more empty after finishing a book before. The emotional turmoil Iron Gold put me though was unexpected and I am still distraught. Pierce, take your five stars from me, and then go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.
Countdown to Dark Age: 223 days.