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Live for more

"You brave Red pioneers of Mars—strongest of the human breed—sacrifice for progress, sacrifice to pave the way for the future. Your lives, your blood, are a down payment for the immortality of the human race as we move beyond Earth and Moon. You go where we could not. You suffer so that others do not.

“I salute you. I love you. The helium-3 that you mine is the lifeblood of the terraforming process. Soon the red planet will have breathable air, livable soil. And soon, when Mars is habitable, when you brave pioneers have made ready the red planet for us softer Colors, we will join you and you will be held in highest esteem beneath the sky your toil created. Your sweat and blood fuels the terraforming!"

Octavia au Lune, Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the first installment of a trilogy revolving around a society in the distant future in which humanity is divided into a color-coded caste system. Darrow is a Red, a 16 year old Helldiver laboring under the surface of Mars to make the world habitable for future generations.

Then the day comes where he discovers that it is all a lie. Mars has been habitable for centuries, and the surface is inhabited by all colors in a brutal hierarchy built on the backs of the Reds. Darrow is given the opportunity to change things, altering his body to become a Gold. His goal: to infiltrate their Institute and carve himself a high place in the Society, putting himself in the best position possible to tear it all down.

The series continues with Golden Son, the second installment, in which war is started to thwart the Big Bad's plans.

The third installment, Morning Star, was released in February, 2016, and follows Darrow as he continues the struggle from the previous books.

A handy chart of all the castes can be found on the book's website here.

The series has spawned a Prequel comic titled Sons of Ares which began in 2017, and a follow up trilogy called Iron Gold, with the first installment released in January 2018.

WARNING: Several of the following entries are spoilers for the entire series, not just the first book!


'Red Rising' contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Several. Mustang, Victra, Quinn, Pebble, Harpy, and Thisle are some of the most prominent examples.
    • The third book adds Sefi and Holiday.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Zig-zagged. The Golds have terraformed most of the planets and moons of the solar system, but Mercury, Venus, Luna, and Mars were made as Earth-like as possible, while the moons of the gas giants are habitable, but less Earthlike.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Capturing other house's strongholds is critical to your education (and survival) at the Academy.
  • Alternative Calendar: The first book begins in year 736 of the Post-Conquering Era. Word of God places this sometime in the 29th century.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Valkyries are an all female band of Obsidian warriors introduced in Morning Star.
    • The villains have The Furies, a trio of sisters who serve as Octavia's bodyguards.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Tactus is described as having skin like oak honey, and Quinn is similarly darker-skinned.
    • Word of God confirms that Tactus is Mediterranean and Quinn is African.
  • Animated Tattoo: The Violet sigil is described as "shifting".
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Arc Words: "Break the chains." and "Live for more."
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Darrow becomes the leader of Augustus' military forces by beating everyone who tries to eliminate him.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: With few exceptions, almost every named Gold in the series who's in a position of authority is a badass as well.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: When Mustang becomes Sovereign at the end of Morning Star.
  • Babies Ever After: Morning Star ends with Mustang introducing Darrow to their infant son, Pax.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Darrow instigates one in Golden Son between the Augustus and Bellona families.
    • And then the shoe is on the other foot when he's ambushed at his Triumph at the end of Golden Son.
  • Battle Couple: Darrow forms one with Mustang over the course of the first book.
  • Battlecry: "PAX AU TELEMANUS! PAX AU TELEMANUS!"
  • The Beautiful Elite: Golds are bred for physical beauty.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Sevro rescues Cassius and Darrow from a Minervan ambush early in their time at the Institute.
    • Sevro and the Howlers show up to break Darrow out of the Sovereign's tower on Luna in Golden Son.
    • Fitchner dropping his cover and killing Karnus before Darrow can be executed near the end of the same book
    • The Sons of Ares attacking Attica with claw drills to help Darrow escape in Morning Star.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Bordering on Grey and Gray Morality. The Society is a soulcrushing dystopia, but most of its defenders believe believe it's all that prevents utter chaos. The heroes draw some lines, but they still cause the deaths of plenty of innocents.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Adrius "The Jackal" au Augustus has a captured Darrow and Victra at his mercy following his coup of Mars in Golden Son. He then hands over a body double to be executed on live communications, and keeps Darrow in an empty dark hole where he's kept alive by machines for months on end with no other sensory input, while keeping Victra alive and torturing her through overloading her senses. Both escape, and promptly join the Rising.
  • Breaking Out the Boss: In the beginning of Morning Star, a type-2. Darrow is physically and psychologically damaged, and needs time to recover before taking the reins again.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: In Morning Star, Sevro has to feign death for several hours. A drug used causes... digestive issues. Did you think he did it on purpose?
    "Kind of, yeah."
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Jackal and Mustang are twins who share a talent for accomplishing their aims through trickery. However, while Jackal is a murderous sociopath, Mustang is a kind and caring Internal Reformist.
    • Antonia and her (introduced in the second book) older sister, Victra also have this dynamic- Both are Ladies of War, but while Antonia is a Rich Bitch and shows signs of being a sociopath, Victra is a friendly Hard-Drinking Party Girl who shows an unusual amount of conscience/aversion to killing innocents for a Peerless Scarred. Victra notes that people who have met her sister tend to immediately dislike/distrust her. In the massacre of Darrow's allies at the end of the second book, Antonia personally murders Victra. The latter got better
  • Capture the Flag: Capture another House's Standard and be rewarded lavishly, as well as taking away your enemies' ability to make slaves of other players.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Darrow deals with this repeatedly throughout the series.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Several
    • Lorn au Arcos is casually mentioned several times throughout the first book before being officially introduced in the second.
    • Darrow encounters Mustang twice before being formally introduced to her at the Institute.
    • Cassius's older brother Karnus is mentioned multiple times in Red Rising before he finally appears in Golden Son.
    • Quicksilver is mentioned throughout the second book before he finally appears in the third.
  • Colonized Solar System: The main setting of the series.
  • Crapsack World: A dystopia where other colors are subjugated by the Golds, with their characterizing trait being ruthlessness and ambition. Becomes even more so at the end of Golden Son, where anyone who could resist the Sovereign or the Golds is dead or captured.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Fitchner/Ares - Uncaring hedonist who has a chip on his shoulder? Try the only one who managed to resist the Golds in decades and the Rage Knight.
  • Crusading Widower: Darrow
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Between Roque and the Bellona fleet in Golden Son. It doesn't help that the Julii switch sides to Augustus halfway through the battle - while they're in the middle of the Bellona fleet.
    • Any battle with Darrow "The Reaper" in it counts as well, to his side. He never loses a fight except at the Academy, where the Sovereign gave the Bellona an extra ship so that they could win. Which is why his enemies organize a betrayal while he is unarmed during his Triumph.
  • Curtains Match the Window: How Colors are marked, with some exceptions. For example, Obsidians have white-blonde hair, Greens are dark-haired, and Mickey the Violet is described as dark-haired, although as a creative he may well be permitted to dye it.
  • Dark Action Girl: Aja and Antonia, along with every female Gold who fights for either the Sovereign or The Jackal.
  • Dead Guy Junior: In the final chapter of Morning Star we have Pax
  • The Dead Have Names: No one who dies is really forgotten, and living characters' memories and opinions about their dead friends and relatives inform many of their actions.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The Golds, with Pixies as the decadent and Iron Golds as the deadly.
  • Deadly Training Area: At first the training grounds seem like a paradise. But house Mars has no way to store water long-term, no way to make fire, and winter is on the way. Meanwhile house Ceres is baking bread in their river fortress and laughing it up.
  • Decapitation Presentation
    • Octavia au Lune became monarch of the solar system by beheading her tyrannical father and presenting his head to the council.
    • Darrow learns that Augustus presented the head of his first wife to her father.
    • He's then presented with the head of Fitchner/Ares at the end of Golden Son.
    • Mustang does it with Octavia au Lune's head to the entire senate at the end of Morning Star.
  • Democracy Is Bad: None of the major characters, both heroes and villains, have a high opinion of democracy.
  • Downer Ending: The end of Golden Son, where Darrow is captured for super-special Gold torture and dissection, loses his fleet, is betrayed by his 'brothers' and is presented with Fitchner/Ares' head by Roque.
  • The Dreaded: Darrow's reputation as The Reaper is so badass that the crew of Antonia's ship immediately betray her to Victra in order to save themselves.
    • The Jackal himself acquired this reputation at the Institute.
  • Due to the Dead: Subverted - burying a Red is a crime punishable by death as Darrow learns firsthand when he does this for Eo. As such, the gallows are full of bodies in varying states of decay that no one dares to remove.
    • Only Golds are allowed that luxury, with the cast having small funerals for Tactus in Golden Son and Roque in Morning Star.
  • Dynamic Entry: Darrow and Sevro board the Vanguard in Golden Son by smashing through the viewport of the ship's bridge.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Morning Star. Thankfully.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Several different elite groups appear throughout the series:
  • The Empire: The Society.
  • Enemy Civil War: Between Augustus and Bellona in Golden Son, then between the Core and the Rim during Morning Star.
  • Enemy Mine: In Morning Star, Darrow and Mustang ally with the the Rim Golds against the Sword Armada led by Roque.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Zig-zagged. Golds don't allow LowColors to have same-sex relationships, but everyone is generally described as being all over the map in terms of sexual orientation.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The first book includes Darrow's class at the school (The Institute). Almost every high-stakes Gold in the next two books, except the parents of said school-mates and the ultimate ruler, were in that same year's Institute. Events from that year are constantly referenced.
  • Evil Former Friend: Cassius becomes this halfway through the first book.
    • And then Roque betrays Darrow at the end of the second.
    • At the beginning of Golden Son, Harmony is revealed to have become this in between books.
  • Evil Gloating: In Morning Star, Antonia gloats after killing her cellmate, Thistle, who was going to reveal the Jackal's plans to Darrow. Victra breaks her face.
  • Eye Scream: Poor Fitchner.
    • Sevro lost an eye to one of the Jackal's minions in the first book.
  • Faking the Dead: Darrow, twice: his "death" in Red Rising (faked by the Sons) and his later "execution" (faked by the Jackal). Sevro in Morning Star.
  • Fantastically Indifferent: Darrow's uncle has this reaction to walking in on the Howler's initiation ritual. He takes it in calmly and then just walks back out.
  • Fatal Flaw: Pride for Darrow, and pretty much every Gold, as he becomes so arrogant over his apparent victory that he tells multiple people his Red origins, before he loses everything from Roque's betrayal.
  • Feuding Families: Augustus and Bellona.
  • Five-Bad Band: As of Morning Star, this is:
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When talking to the students of House Mars, Fitchner mentions that if students perform well enough, Lorn au Arcos might want them for an apprenticeship. He ended up training Darrow in between Red Rising and Golden Sob .
    • On the last day of orientation at the Institute, Proctor Ceres brings up Fitchner's application for the position of Rage Knight. He finally got the job in Book 2.
  • The GM Is A Cheating Bastard: The Proctors are largely aloof, at first. When the game isn't going their way, however, their cheating becomes more and more blatant, until they literally descend from the sky to order the correct people to lose. Happens at the Academy too, with the Sovereign giving Karnus an extra ship to surprise Darrow with in the last battle, causing his defeat.
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: Provides one of the best examples for this trope. The Reds have to work in order to make live on Mars more comfortable for the other colors, while the Golds are considered to be the Elite.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: The biggest bastards and highest-ranking Golds are known as Peerless Scarred, and bear a prominent facial scar.
  • Happily Married: Eo and Darrow. Fitchner and his Red wife, before she was gassed for breeding with a Gold. In Morning Star, Victra and Sevro.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Cassius after learning who was really responsible for the massacre of his family.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Darrow at the end of Golden Son, where Eo's dream is undone, he has been captured by people who will probably horribly torture him, his friends are dead or hiding, Ares is dead and his enemies are stronger than before.
  • Hope Spot: Near the end of 'Golden Son', Darrow has won the battle for Mars and the Sovereign is outnumbered, then all his choices come back to bite him the ass.
  • Involuntary Battle to the Death: The Initiation Ceremony for the Institute. Obsidians break into your room, beat you and strip you and drag you away to a cold, dark room with another frightened teenager. Only one of you can leave the room alive. For Darrow, it feels like a case of If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten with the added bonus of bonding his housemates together in shared guilt.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Pax has a jaw "like a heel with a dent in it"
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: People who are born Golds (golden irises, blonde hair, genetically superior physical traits) are at the top of the societal pyramid of power, with "Bronzie" being a nickname for the lower stock. The next tier of the pyramid are the Silvers (money managers), Whites (priesthood), and Coppers (bureaucrats). Beneath them are Oranges (mechanics), Yellows, (doctors), Greens (programmers), Blues (navigators), and Violets (artists). The fourth tier of the pyramid are the Grays (police), who are considered to be above the Browns (servants), Obsidians (brute force soldiers), and Pinks (sex workers). Reds (manual labor) form the base of the pyramid.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: In the first book, Darrow nails the Jackal's hand to a table, and tells him he can go free if he cuts his own hand off. He takes the offer.
  • The Lost Lenore: Eo for Darrow
    • Brynn for Fitchner
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Mickey the Carver reshapes Darrow into a perfect Gold, a lengthy, painful process. He does it again in Morning Star to get Darrow and Victra back into fighting shape.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: This is a bad universe in which to be mentoring a hero. Lorn, Fitchner, and Uncle Narol find out the hard way.
  • Messianic Archetype: Darrow. Gathers a group of undyingly loyal followers? Check. Betrayed by one of those followers? Check. Figurative death and resurrection? Happens twice actually.
    • It's invoked and discussed in-universe early in the first book, with Mickey accusing Dancer of attempting to turn Darrow into a Messiah for the cause.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Eo was pregnant when she died, and never told Darrow.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Soft as a pink. Very occasionally something scientific is mentioned, such as Mars having a low gravity when discussing hangings or a character jumping. Other than that, practical issues never come up. How does Mars retain an atmosphere? How is nobody freezing on Europa? Something something Helium-3 terra-forming something.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Spoiler for Morning Star: Virginia and the rebels would have had far more trouble subjugating Luna against its military's will if the Jackal hadn't provided a common enemy.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: The Jackal gets his name after deliberately trapping himself and his House members underground to avoid capture. For a month. Plenty of water, no food.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: The war games at the Institute were rigged by Arch Governor Augustus so that The Jackal would win.
    • Happens again in Golden Son when Karnus au Bellona was given an extra ship to ambush Darrow with.
  • Official Couple: Darrow and Mustang
  • Pair the Spares: Sevro and Victra hook up over the course of Morning Star.
  • Planet of Hats: Each "Color" has a distinct behavior linked to their appearance, "thanks" to a combination of genetic engineering and social control.
  • Posthumous Character: Eo, Pax.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Sovereign has multiple different groups of this.
    • The Olympic Knights are bodyguards assigned to the office of the Sovereign.
    • The Furies serve as Octavia's personal guards, loyal to her personally.
  • Public Execution: The gravity is low on Mars, so when a Red is hanged, their loved ones must pull on their feet to snap the neck.
  • Ramming Always Works: Well for Karnus it does.
  • Red Baron: The Ash Lord, supreme leader of the Society's military forces, and infamous for his massacre of Rhea.
    • Darrow himself becomes this over the course of Golden Son and Morning Star.
  • Retcon: The First Moon Lords' Rebellion and Octavia's ascension to the Morning Throne are described as occurring forty years prior to the start of the series. Morning Star and onward claim it was sixty.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Proctors of the Institute, and some of the main students for those houses, tend to align with the mythological archetypes they're based off, partially from purpose and partially from chance.
  • Running Gag: See the entry for Strange Minds Think Alike.
  • The Social Darwinist: The system set up by the Golds runs on this principle (see The Spartan Way), not only despising democracy out of a belief that it coddles the weak, but also instituting a training system aimed at killing off the weak members of the ruling class and leaving those alive as rulers who are the most clever and ruthless.
    • As the story expands, it becomes more and more clear that The Society does not practice this as much as they preach; an entire theme of Golden Son is how corrupt the system has become, with numerous flaws preventing the meritocracy the Golds idealize.
  • Sleep Cute: Darrow and Mustang have several moments in the first two books.
    • A non-shipping version (maybe) occurs in the first book between Pax and Tactus.
  • Something Only They Would Say: The word "bloodydamn" is exclusive to Reds. This tips Darrow off to the fact that Titus is a fellow Red.
  • Spanner in the Works: Sevro in the Academy. Darrow deduces that, since the Initiation was primarily a selection process, the small, scrawny-looking, non-highly bred Sevro was supposed to be one of the victims. Instead, he killed golden-boy Priam, and was instrumental in Darrow's becoming Prime.
  • The Spartan Way: The training for Golds involves this, with specific reference to the Spartans, as a Gold in authority asserts that while Democracy Is Bad in itself, both democratic societies like Athens and aristocratic ones like Rome fall to decadence, unless (imitating Sparta) the system culls the weak and leaves the strong to rule.
  • Staking the Loved One: Hanging is the primary method of execution, but on places with lower gravity—such as Mars or Luna—the drop isn't enough to snap the condemned's neck; unless someone pulls their legs to break it, they'll merely suffocate to death. Darrow was forced to do ths for his father as a child, and then to Eo.
    • Virginia does it to Adrius.
  • Staff of Authority: The Standard is the symbol of the house, a staff with an iron head shaped into the symbol of the House's deity, such as a wolf for Mars. It doesn't just represent the honor of the house: touch it to an enemy's forehead and they are marked as your slave, compelled to obey or be forever Shamed.
    • Octavia has one that functions as her badge of office as Sovereign.
  • The Starscream: The Jackal plays this role in Golden Son, when he sells everyone out to Octavia in exchange for becoming governor of Mars.
    • And then he does it again to Octavia herself in Morning Star when attempts to take her place as Sovereign.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: What's Sevro doing? Probably ___(obscene or just plain weird act)__. Later: Did you think Sevro was ___(obscene or just plain weird act)___?
    Darrow: "Well..."
    Cassius: "Yeah, kind of."
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Eo, whose death fuels Darrow's rage against the Golds.
    • Bryn is a posthumous case, as her death is what motivated Fitchner to form the Sons of Ares.
    • Quinn, whose death fuels begins to fracture Darrow and Roque's friendship.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: All Golds, although some are disparaged for having bronze or khaki coloration.
  • That Man Is Dead: Virginia states that the man who once went riding with her is dead; and the man who wears his name is a stranger to her.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Darrow first receives this, then later has to dole out justice as leader of House Mars.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Each color has irises to match their caste color, such as Reds, Violets and Golds.
  • Torture Always Works: Disputed by Dancer and Quicksilver in Morning Star, though for different reasons. Dancer, who has been tortured, argues that it is ineffective because the person being tortured will tell you anything (true or not) to get you to stop. Quicksilver argues that it can be effective, but is only good for either confirming something you already know, or for telling you something that's easy to confirm.
  • True Companions: Darrow, Sevro, Mustang, Victra, and Cassius have all become this by the end of the series.
  • The Unfought: Tiberius au Bellona and The Ash Lord.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Too many to list. If you hear a plan, don't expect it to be the whole plan, and the parts they haven't told you will always save the day.
  • Villain: "Exit, Stage Left!": The Ash Lord flees to Mercury after Octavia's death in Morning Star.
  • Villainous Valor: In Morning Star, Aja's last stand.
  • War Is Hell: The Institute's war game can get insanely brutal. The point is partially to instill fear of losing power in the future leaders of The Society. Starving, freezing, and being tortured by the more violent students are all fair game.
    • Only gets worse in Golden Son and Morning Star once real war breaks. Even Darrow and Sevro are horrified.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: Part of the series' backstory and how Gold came to power. It's invoked in the present day story in Morning Star, only with Luna instead of Earth.
  • War Time Wedding: Sevro and Victra in Morning Star.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Infighting plagues pretty much every faction featured in the series:
    • The Institute even encourages this in the selection of a Primus for each House. House Mars has a short but brutal civil war between those loyal to Titus and those loyal to Cassius and Darrow.
    • Later, when Mustang and Darrow team up, Tactus tries to undermine Darrow's power via Attempted Rape. Darrow defuses the situation by first whipping Tactus then taking a whipping himself to share responsibility for Tactus's actions.
    • Morning Star features this as a major issue for the Rising, with Golds allied with Darrow being hunted by lower Colors, only being resolved by Sevro taking Darrow's unification tactics Up to Eleven by first hanging Cassius then hanging himself.
    • The villains get this in Morning Star also, with the Jackal quietly making plans to overthrow the Sovereign and Ocatavia trying to stop him.
  • Wham Episode: Golden Son's ending, BIG time. To take stock: everyone now knows Darrow's secret. Roque betrays him. Victra's mother? Dead. Victra herself? Dying and quite possibly dead. Lorn au Arcos? Dead. ArchGovernor Nero au Augustus, built up for so long as the Big Bad? Killed by his own son the Jackal. Darrow is taken captive by his enemies. And as if all that wasn't enough, the last thing we see before the book ends is the head of Fitchner/Ares.
  • Wham Line: Several
    • Titus using the word bloodydamn, revealing himself to Darrow as a fellow Red.
    • When Harmony shows Darrow the last conversation between Eo and her sister before the former's execution.
    • When Roque and the Jackal betray everyone at the Triumph.
    Roque: "And so end liars, with a bloodydamn kiss."
  • What the Hell, Hero??:
    • Darrow gets called out for many of his questionable decision by his friends.
  • Wings Do Nothing: A popular surgical alteration to Pinks, the Society's sex workers. Evey in particular has a pair of white eagle's wings jutting from her back.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Darrow does this towards Victra and Tactus. It only works with Victra.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: In Golden Son, Darrow's disturbed to discover he's become the idol of a generation of Gold children.

"The Institute is not a school, it is a culling ground where the Golds go to hack at one an­other till the strongest in mind and body is found. You. Will. Die."
Mickey, Red Rising

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