*Excuse me while I rave about my current favorite series*
Iron Gold is the recently-released 4th book in (what has become) the Red Rising Saga. You do need to read these books in order for the plots to make sense, so if you don’t know who lived or died by the end of Morning Star, you probably want to catch up in the series before reading this review. No Iron Gold spoilers below, though. You can check out my review of book 1, Red Rising, if you’re just getting started with Pierce Brown’s books.
To be up front about it, this is mainly a book for the readers who’ve been addicted to Darrow’s story since Red Rising and already know they’re in this for the long haul. If you’re undecided but still hanging on, Iron Gold probably won’t make or break the series for you.
About the book: Ten Years after the Rising, Darrow and Virginia’s Republic is fraying. It has focused so heavily on liberation of the lowly throughout the solar system that it hasn’t been particularly attentive to the people once they’re freed, nor is it pleasing the new Senate at home on Luna. War is still raging (or simmering, in some cases) throughout the Solar System, affecting all Colors and all planets, in one way or another. There are those who would love to take advantage of the Republic’s current weakness– and a few who are ready to try. There may even be a few inside the system who are intentionally (or not) sabotaging the Republic and its resources. Our fabled heroes won’t go down without a fight, however.
This is the first book in this series with multiple narrators. There are 4 first-person perspectives in this book, but it’s hard to name a favorite because they all have something vital to add to the narrative. They span the solar system with their schemes and tragedies and divulge unique views on the political situation. It’s a good balance of introspective commentary on the aftermath of war, the struggle to build up what’s been broken, and new fights for peace. Here’s a look at the main characters:
LYRIA- This “freed” Martian Red gives readers a good look at the bottom of the ladder. Even with the old social castes upturned, Reds are still under-supplied, under-aided, under-appreciated. Lyria is only one of millions who was promised a new and better life after the Rising, but instead her family is forgotten in an overflowing refugee camp, still struggling to survive and robbed of the feeling of any nobility in the work they must now perform outside of the mines.
“I pray before I look at each new face, and feel sick as I breathe sighs of relief when it is someone else’s mother, someone else’s sister dead on the ground.”
LYSANDER- The boy king Cassius rescued from Luna has grown into a man on the run, but he’s still letting others make the important decisions– at least until their luck turns when he and Cassius get into their worst scrape yet. Lysander is quiet and wise, and never shows fear. He’s easy to sympathize with, which makes him both more deadly and more interesting as he’s pitted against other beloved characters by his past and present circumstances.
“The key to learning, to power, to having the final say in everything, is observation. By all means, be a storm inside, but save your movement and wind till you know your purpose.”
Ephraim: Here’s the criminal genius with a crippling past that you didn’t know this space drama needed until he showed up. He’s selfish and underhanded, but it’s clear his heart is in the right place though he’s been dealt a bad hand. Ephraim’s action scenes were probably my favorite in the book, between his heists and the introduction of a new cast of villains and allies. It’s difficult to say whether he’s trustworthy or not, or even which side he’s on other than his own.
“You are a world entire. You are grand and lovely. But you have to see it before anyone else does.”
These three characters are opening new doors for readers who’ve been with Darrow since the beginning, and they’re especially important at this point in the series because this war is much bigger than one person, even if that one person is Darrow, the mythologized Reaper responsible for the cataclysmic Rising. But don’t worry, even though our favorite Helldiver isn’t our only narrator anymore, he still has a voice.
DARROW- He’s 33 now, and he’s starting to feel old. The war, the Republic, the politics… the things he was once so passionate about have become a chore, a duty he’ll tend to with the best of his ability though his heart is home with his wife and son, who seem to be drifting apart from him as he pursues the war effort. Darrow’s chapters in this book show the range of Brown’s capabilities best, because though he’s still our beloved hero with plenty of tricks up his sleeve, he’s also making mistakes. Collecting regrets. The scope of Darrow’s character development throughout this series has been immense, but Iron Gold proves there are plenty of changes left for Darrow.
“I feel the trauma of what I’m doing not just to him, but both our families. It feels like the world is doing this to us. But is it the world, or is it me? The way I am built? A breaker, not a builder after all.”
Let me just note that we also see new sides of Sevro through Darrow’s perspective and it’s fresh and intriguing and makes me a little trepidatious about where he’ll stand in the next volume.
There’s plenty of action, never fear, but Iron Gold is heavy on the introspection, as well. It’s a set-up book, the bridge between the devastation and triumph from the first three books to what promises to be an epic conclusion. I wouldn’t say it ends on a cliffhanger so much as a gaping chasm for the next two books to fill, and with the fresh sparks ignited in Iron Gold, I just know it’s going to come to a crazy fantastic conclusion. And of course, it’s all written with Brown’s singular attention to detail. The descriptions are otherworldly and beautiful, the classical references are plenty, the characters are unabashedly bold.
The only let-down for me in Iron Gold was Mustang– or the lack of Mustang. In this book, she’s always Virginia or the Sovereign or Darrow’s wife. She makes only a few relatively small appearances. I missed seeing this half of the power couple at work in Iron Gold. It’s the relationships that keep me engaged with the characters, even though it’s really the epic plot twists and fast action scenes that keep me turning pages. With the way Morning Star ended, I expected to see more of Darrow’s family in Iron Gold, even if they’re not thrilled with him at the moment.
My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. This isn’t my new favorite book of the series, but it’s not my least favorite either. I’m already majorly anticipating Book 5 (Dark Age), which is scheduled to hit shelves in September 2018. And while I’m waiting for September, I’ll be rereading all 4 of the already-published books in this series because I can’t. Get. Enough. Also because it’s been a year and a half since I read the first three books and I’ve already noticed I’m having a hard time tying some of the myriad names to their titles and backstories. There’s a lot of detail in this series, and I want to absorb every facet of it.
Any other enthusiastic Pierce Brown fans out there? What are your thoughts on Iron Gold?
The Literary Elephant