I got an advanced reading copy of this book to review through Amazon Vine. This was a spectacular dystopian/fantasy novel. You cant help but compare this to The Hunger Games, there are some similar elements to the story. However, this book definitely stands out on its own and at times has a more fantasy feel to it.
Darrow is a Helldiver who mines beneath Marss surface. He is one of thousands of Reds who live tough lives under the surface of Mars hoping to make it habitable for humanity one day. Darrow is proud to be a Helldiver, one of the most difficult and prestigious of the mining jobs. That is until his wife is killed and he finds out his whole life and the society he knows is a lie. Mars has been habitable for centuries and the Golds have been using the Reds as their slaves...all the while the Reds think they have a purpose when really they are no better than slaves. A rebel group wants Darrows help, they want to turn him into a Gold and they want him to go to school as a Gold and move into a position of power.
Okay lets get the Hunger Games comparison out of the way. There are definitely some similarities between the two books. In Red Rising the society is broken down into groups by colors (not districts) and Reds are the lowest. When the teens get together at school they are pitted against each other in a very Hunger Games like way, but although it is a survive or be killed type of scenario.its a much different type of game per say.
One of the most interesting elements to this story was also one I found a bit hard to believe. That is the fact that there are a group of people dwelling beneath Marss surface who know nothing about the society above them. This was a bit hard to swallow, but if you just go with it its a very interesting concept.
The other part of this story that I found really engaging was once Darrow gets to the Gold Academy. The Academy is even harsher than the mines he grew up in. The Golds are expected to cull the weak from the herd. They are put into a game where they are each given a group to fight with and support. This ends up being a scenario that is very much like having small kingdoms pitted against each other. It really gives the book a heavy fantasy element, there are wars and battles between the castles of the different groups and lots of politics and maneuvering.
Darrow is an incredibly engaging character. In the beginning of the book his relationship with his wife is so sweet, and of course, she is killed. So he has this whole nothing-to-lose sadness going on. With her death she basically forces Darrow to live up to her dream and become a better person because of it. Hes a complex character whose greatest strength is thinking tangentially to problems.
Throughout his battle at the Academy Darrow forms a core group of interesting friends. They all are unique and incredibly well done, they all have stories of their own. They are all allies...for now...until they have to fight for top rankings against each other. Darrow also develops a love interest with one of the girls, I wont say much about this because of spoilers. However, I really enjoyed that character that he develops a relationship with she is just spectacular in her own right.
The novel ends at a good point, but there is still a lot left to be unresolved. The book is incredibly engaging and well written. This was an absolutely effortless read and one of those books where you are all like Oh, wow, am I at the end already!? Then you get a bit sad because you want there to be more of this great stuff.
Overall a spectacular dystopian novel. I really enjoyed this one a lot. There are wonderful characters in here, excellent action and adventure that has a very fantasy-like flare to it. It was a very engrossing story with likable characters that are easy to engage with. There are some very creative ideas in here and excellent world building. I cant wait to read the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book to fans of dystopians or fantasy reads.