Review of Dark Age by Pierce Brown

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?
Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.
But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.
On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?
Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.
Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.
As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

So this is going to be a really hard review to write. The first 3 books in the saga I absolutely adored, brilliant writing, plot twists that had me gasping and characters that I fell in love with. Iron Gold I struggled a bit with when it came to meandering plot but it did pull it back, but now comes Dark Age. Both dark in name and content it really couldn’t be any further from the YA roots of Red Rising. This book is totally and utterly depressing. I mean it, I just felt bereft and sad throughout.

Death, torture, mutilation, genocide – these have always been present but never in such a relentless way, I was exhausted reading this and I was just left feeling pretty empty as it’s all so mindless and repetitive. Pierce Brown basically has laid smack down to George RR Martin when it comes to character death, some of which I was utterly devastated by and a couple which I just can’t forgive.

I did like how we finally got Virginia’s POV in this book, her voice has been missed and I actually felt I got to enjoy her character so much more, she always felt cold and distant but this time she gets to shine again and get more down to the level of the Institute again rather than the lofty sovereign. Her arc actually was actually my favourite as her chapters were sparing but they were full of plot (something that the others suffered with – but more of that to come) and the best reveals. I have to admit I was totally floored by the revelation of the syndicate queen and the abomination was just all kinds of creepy. Lyria had a fantastic story line too, intertwined with the fabulous Figment, she finds herself with quite the unlikely cohort to take on the Red Hand with and with a whole new depth that finds its way to her, she feels far from the whiny Lyria that came before. This change up in her really pushed her to new limits and I am genuinely excited for how her story grows. At this point I would also pretty much die for Victra.

Alongside of the depressing content issue was the need for another round of edits. Ephraim for me just didn’t cut it this time (which is a shame as he was the stand out for me in Iron Gold) his chapters just felt a little tedious and didn’t seem to go anywhere until the penultimate part of the book. Combined with the “at home with the Obsidians” skit which gave us an insight into their day to day activities that we neither wanted or needed – there were a good couple of hundred pages of story which just ultimately felt self indulgent. This is frustrating as there were times where I wanted to know more (the abomination) and where I wanted things to be explained – like how many Yellows were there kicking about in random places to deal with all these mortal wounds that characters survived.

Throw in Darrow giving the Terminator a run for their money, Lysander being a total brat and the biggest plot twist that pretty much everyone saw coming, I just felt let down. I know that there are tons of people who loved this book but ultimately I just couldn’t deal with just how dark this book got, many characters I felt didn’t get treated with the dignity they deserved (Orion) and ultimately how even those closest to the rising just felt expendable. One thing I have discovered through writing this review is that actually one huge thing Pierce Brown did right was to make the women totally wipe the floor with the men when it came to characterisation and arc.

I will continue with the series because, honestly I’ve come this far with it now and the final part of the book did start to pull it back. I was left more hopeful that the lions share of the grim was done with and that we can get back to story telling I fell in love with alongside of some hopefully amazing things for Lyria!

3.5 out of 5 Stars

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