So, it’s news to absolutely no one that I adored Red Rising, the first in Pierce Brown’s trilogy, and Golden Son, the second book. Red Rising popped up all over my 2014 end of year survey, as one of the best books I’d read that year and one of the ones I most frequently recommended, and Golden Son absolutely crushed me. The wait for Morning Star is an ongoing struggle, so when I saw that Hodderscape were doing a read/re-readalong for Red Rising and Golden Son in the run up to it’s release, I knew I wanted to join in.
This week, we’ve just finished part II of Red Rising, Reborn, which I adored. In Part I, Slave, we get a lot of the setting, the world-building, we meet Darrow and we see the catalyst for the story. In Part II, Reborn, we get to see his arrival at the Institute, and meet a lot of the key characters for a first time: as someone profoundly character driven, this was always going to be a great part for me!
Rereading, I got to see the characters in a whole new light, knowing how I’ll eventually feel about them, and it really got me thinking about a few things. Namely:
Likeable characters, unlikeable actions & bad boys(/girls)
Darrow is, ultimately, very likeable. He’s sincere seeming in a way that feels refreshing, especially in dystopia where so often everyone seems to be hiding behind a mask. While Darrow is pretending to be someone he’s not, I feel like it’s very clear to you as a reader, just what kind of a person he is. We see his feelings as he tries to blend in with the Golds and sees that maybe they’re not exactly what he thought they would be. He starts off interesting but he grows into someone epic. He’s daring, he takes no crap from anyone and he’s bloodydamn intelligent – but despite all that, I didn’t love him straight away. He’s just a little too likeable.
In Reborn, we see Darrow make some difficult decisions, and ultimately commit an unlikeable action. We get to see a little of just what Darrow is capable of: it’s been hinted at before, but this is where we truly start to see it, and that makes him a hundred times more interesting to me.
See, I have what you might call, a slight problem.
My favourite characters, more often than not are the underdogs, the unlikables, the damaged.
The bad boy in real life? So not interested. But fiction is a whole other story.
You can keep your wannabe bad boys (Jace Wayland? Try harder), your nice boys (Augustus Waters), your cute-and-funny types (Ron Weasley) or the downright evil (Joffrey Baratheon), but the morally questionable (or sometimes not-so-questionable), damaged-type characters in fiction? Totally my thing. I’m talking Spike in Buffy, Manon Blackbeak in Throne of Glass, The Hound in Game of Thrones, Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries, Lex Luthor in Smallville – you know the kind.
These guys have attitude, they do they what they want and they don’t necessarily care who they step on to do so – but they’re not evil. And of course, Red Rising has just such a character…
Darrow has potential, but he’s got nothing on Sevro, who we meet for the first time in Reborn and who I just knew was going to worm his way into my heart.
Sevro is not, in all honesty, likeable. He’s got a serious attitude problem, he insults first and follows up with more insults, he’s fairly unattractive, has terrible manners and he’s arrogant. In Reborn, we don’t see a lot about him to redeem him, but there’s one thing you just can’t deny: he’s instantly interesting. Why has he got such an attitude problem? Has he got any hope in the institute when he’s the smallest, the least impressive seeming? Is his attitude all bluster or can he back it up?
Slave got me hooked on the world that Brown has built, and his instantly-engrossing writing, both of which are good enough that I’d have been hooked on the series based on those alone. Reborn though had me dying to know more about the characters in this world which Darrow has never even seen: who they are, how they’ll cope, how Darrow will interact with them… By the end of Slave I had a pretty good feeling about Red Rising, but by the end of Reborn I was really starting to realise it could make it on to my top-series-ever list (where it firmly remains!)