“But history is so often molded from tainted clay by those who remain.”
A powerful addition to Pierce Brown’s epic Red Rising Saga, Iron Gold is thrilling, enthralling, and unrelenting in its breakneck pace. The only thing that keeps me from giving it five stars is its main protagonist.
Iron Gold picks up ten years after the events of Morning Star. The main characters of the original trilogy are a little older, a little wiser, and have known nothing but war for the past decade. When political machinations oust Darrow as ArchImperator of the Sovereign, he goes on the run, flanked by his closest allies.
Three other narrators fill out the story. A Red girl named Lyria is caught up in a terrorist scheme when she is saved from her miserable village and brought to Luna to live amongst Golds. A depressed, self-destructive Gray named Ephraim takes on a job that tests his morals and puts innocent lives at stake. And lastly, Lysander au Lune and Cassius au Bellona find themselves the unwilling guests of a vicious, draconian host on Io.
Writing a coherent book with four narrators is a tall order, no matter the page count. But Pierce Brown weaves together Lyria and Ephraim’s narratives in an exciting story arc that ratchets up personal and overarching stakes alike and keeps readers captivated to the very last page. Meanwhile, Lysander’s captivity on Io is a strong enough story to thrive on its own, inspiring confidence that its eventual convergence with the other plots will be nothing short of explosive.
Oddly enough, the only narrator who feels unnecessary is Darrow. His story is centered around defeating the Ash Lord – a character readers have little knowledge of before Iron Gold, but whose villainy precedes him a la Oz the Great and Terrible. Forced to rely on Darrow’s ruminating and anecdotes, readers have little reason to appreciate the Ash Lord’s evil or care about the inevitable confrontation between him and Darrow.
(That being said, I admit I may be biased against the main protagonist. Throughout the Red Rising Saga, I’ve never truly warmed to Darrow – I’ve always found him a little too perfect, a little too sanctimonious, a little too broody. A decade-long time skip has only amplified these qualities, making Darrow all the more grating.)
Darrow’s plot aside, Iron Gold is an exhilarating book. From sword flights to space travel to warring with gangs in city slums, Iron Gold is a whirlwind of activity that never abates. Furthermore, Brown’s universe is vast, filled with distinct cultures, societies, and ruthless, multi-layered people. With each book in the saga, there is the potential to learn something new – a new family, new alliances, and new nuances of a given color. Particularly interesting are Pinks, to whom Brown frankly doesn’t afford enough attention (I almost wish we could have a Pink narrator; an insider’s perspective on the mental issues and frailty of Pinks would be fascinating).
On the whole, Iron Gold is a great addition to the Red Rising Saga. Fans of the original trilogy should seize the chance to expand beyond Darrow’s point of view – there is so much more to be explored through other characters’ eyes.